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A Lawyer’s Guide to Working with Special Needs Clients

Richard Augustus Courtney


  • This book serves as a practical guide for attorneys new to special needs law, addressing challenges faced by the disability community.
  • It covers disabilities, ethical considerations, public benefit programs, and legal document drafting techniques for ensuring clients' healthcare and financial security.
A Lawyer’s Guide to Working with Special Needs Clients

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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.