August 27, 2019 BOOK SYNOPSIS

A Lawyer’s Guide to Working with Special Needs Clients

By Richard A. Courtney

Over 12 percent of the American population have disabilities, and this population has been growing. They and their families face daily challenges of finding and paying for education, health care services, and even basic support. The tasks of day-to-day care can consume much of their energies. They are hungry for information and help with finding needed resources and planning for secure futures. Yet, efforts to find such information and planning advice online or in the community often lead to misinformation, mistaken conclusions, and even misguided planning that does not achieve the desired ends. 

The rules and policies of the many public assistance programs are daunting, and these clients often profess confusion and despair at their inability to successfully navigate these bureaucracies. The attorney who can bring accurate information and a knowledge of the available financial and health care resources, and how to obtain them, into the planning process will quickly be viewed as a trusted advisor for those persons with special needs and their families.

This book – written for attorneys who may have limited experience in special needs law – describes the many challenges faced by the disability community and techniques for the attorney to connect with and work with clients to address those challenges. It provides descriptions of many types of disabilities and the ethical pitfalls they present in dealing with various cognitive and capacity issues. Effective decision-making strategies are discussed. There are explanations of the eligibility requirements of and the resources available from the prominent public benefit programs that provide assistance for persons with disabilities, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and HUD housing among others. The author, an experienced estate planning and special needs attorney with personal experience as the parent of an adult child with disabilities, also shares forms and planning techniques for drafting wills, powers of attorney, special needs trusts and other legal documents that will achieve the clients’ goals for health care and financial security in the future. A Lawyer’s Guide to Working with Special Needs Clients attempts to bring together all of these elements in an easy-to-understand, practical guide that can quickly enhance the knowledge base and technical ability of the general practitioner and estate planning attorney who wishes to serve those with special needs.


Richard A. (Rick) Courtney has practiced law since 1978 and is a founding partner of the Jackson law firm of Frascogna Courtney, PLLC, where he chairs the Courtney Elder Law Associates planning group. Rick is a former Director of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).  He has been selected as a member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of NAELA.  Rick is named in Best Lawyers in America® in elder law and trusts and estates and has been designated a Mid-South Super Lawyer annually since 2006 in the field of elder law by Law & Politics, Inc. Rick was awarded the 15th Annual Theresa Award by the Theresa Foundation, for community service and professional advocacy on behalf of children and adults with special needs.  In 2014, he was inducted as a Fellow of NAELA, that organization’s highest honor.  Rick was asked to testify before Congress in September 2015 in support of legislation that now helps adults with disabilities create special needs trusts. Rick and his wife, Ruthie, have adult twin daughters, one of whom has a disability.  Rick has been active in special needs work as a Director of Mustard Seed, Inc., President and Director of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation of Mississippi, Inc., a director of the Heritage School for children with learning disabilities.