Estate Planning: Helping Protect Your Interests

Lessening the Stress of Travel for Travelers with Disabilities

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




Flying can be a frustrating experience for anyone, but for those with disabilities it is even more difficult. Knowing what rights a passenger with disabilities has is the first step to ensuring the next flight is as stress-free as possible.

Booking a Flight

When booking a flight, travelers with disabilities are generally not required to provide pre-flight notification with a few exceptions:

  1. Traveling by stretcher;
  2. Using an electronic wheelchair (or other device with special batteries); or
  3. Requiring connection to the airplane’s oxygen system during flight.

If none of these categories apply, the airline cannot deny travel for not being informed of a passenger with a disability’s travel plan. However, notifying the airline may ensure any desired accommodations are met with less stress on the day of travel.

Federal law has made provisions for people with disabilities who want to travel by airplane through the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986. The ACAA required the Department of Transportation to develop regulations to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of travelers with disabilities.
Note: While travelers with disabilities do have accommodations for air travel under the ACAA, they are not required to accept any or all accommodations.

 

Travel With an Attendant

Each airline determines whether an attendant is required, except in the following situations, which always require an attendant: Continue reading »

Powers of Attorney v Guardianships

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




When your child turns eighteen years old, he or she is considered a legal adult. As an eighteen year old, he or she has the ability to contract, to make decisions such as whether he or she wants to continue to go to school, and whether a parent can be present in an IEP meeting. Further, because of HIPAA privacy rules, a doctor can no longer communicate with the parent regarding that child’s health issues. For families with a child who has special needs, they must make some critical decisions in order to protect their child who is turning eighteen. Two options for these families are seeking guardianship through the court or having the child sign a power of attorney, if appropriate.

Guardianships are a process through the court by which persons are declared incapacitated to the extent that they are unable to make their own decisions regarding medical care and placement, and an individual is appointed by the court to act in their stead. Since the court regulates the guardian, this process can become a costly affair and is a much longer undertaking than a power of attorney, especially if the appointment of a particular guardian is contested.

Conservatorships are formed whenever persons are declared unable to handle their own assets. If a guardianship is granted, a conservatorship will also typically be granted. If the person who was declared incompetent by the court has assets, the court will monitor the appointed conservator and will require annual reports regarding the use of the assets by the conservator to be filed by an attorney.  In order for a guardianship or conservatorship to be set aside, the incapacitated person must petition the court to have his or her legal rights restored and must demonstrate the previously incapacitated person is no longer in need of a guardian or conservator.

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U.S. Court of Appeals Decision Favors Student Who Brought IDEA Claim

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




The United States Court of Appeals, in March 2010, voted in favor of specialized children in the case, Compton Unified School District v. Addison. This case upheld the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

In Compton, Addison, the student, received very poor grades and scored below the first percentile on standardized tests during her ninth-grade year in 2002-2003. The school counselor promoted her to tenth-grade, despite her low performance.

During the fall semester of her tenth-grade year, in 2003, Addison failed every academic subject. Addison’s mother was reluctant to have her child tested, and the School District did not require it. Instead the School District referred Addison to a third-party counselor who recommended the School District assess Addison for learning disabilities. The School District ignored this directive and promoted Addison to the eleventh-grade.

In September 2004, Addison’s mother explicitly requested an educational assessment and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting from the School District. The assessment took place and Addison was found eligible for special education services on January 26, 2005, which was during the spring of her eleventh-grade year.

Addison and her mother brought the claim against the school district seeking compensation for the School District’s failure to identify her needs and provide her with a free appropriate public education.

The school district argued two issues: the first is that the IDEA’s written notice procedures limit the jurisdictional scope of the due process complaint procedure and the second is that they did not receive “clear notice” of the availability of an administrative hearing in “child find” cases. The court rejected the school district’s first argument contending that the Supreme Court has already addressed this issue. The Supreme Court has stated that a conservative reading of the IDEA would leave parents without an adequate remedy if a school district fails to identify a child with disabilities. Regarding the second issue, the court additionally struck down the school district’s argument of “clear notice” finding the IDEA clearly allows complaint “with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child.”

The court’s decision in this case provides fuel for other parents to seek compensation for a school district’s failure to identify children with disabilities in the educational system.

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The Importance of Care Plans & Beyond

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




A care plan is written information about how to best care for your child’s health needs. A care plan may include specific medication your child takes and the time they take it, particular foods your child should avoid, how often your child gets physical therapy, or what to do for your child in an emergency.

Care plans share information with others who take care of your child. This may include doctors, nurses, therapists, emergency medics, teachers, child care providers, respite providers, grandparents, friends, and neighbors.

An estate plan is much more than a will. An effective plan considers your personal circumstances and goals. The more important purposes of estate planning include protecting your assets during your life, planning for possible disabilities, and ensuring your wishes are carried out both during your life and after your death. Estate planning also includes planning for various health-related contingencies so your wishes are clear even if you cannot make decisions for yourself in the future. Here is a sample Care Plan for your child.

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Missouri Closing St. Louis Psychiatric Center

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




The state of Missouri closed the short-term acute care psychiatric unit at Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center., which is a 112-bed acute care inpatient hospital led by chief operating officer Anthony Cuneo that opened in 1996.

The reorganization is part of the state’s efforts to save costs. The Department of Mental Health estimates the closures of acute care units in St. Louis, Fulton, and the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center will save the state $1.5 million in its next fiscal year. Mark Utterback, president and chief executive of Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri said the changes will eliminate an essential service to mental health-care patients who rely on this access to immediate care where they can stay long enough to stabilize. No future plans on alternative facilities are currently being discussed.

Download full Special Needs Advocate Newsletter (PDF)