MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Sarah Lennon, Training & Development Officer, Inclusion Ireland

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Today it seems we are inundated with information about the state of the public finances. However, more and more people are beginning to become concerned about their own personal finances too; every day Inclusion Ireland gets queries from parents of people with intellectual disability on the topic of money and how best to arrange their finances.

Bank accounts

Many parents feel that having a joint bank account with their son or daughter is a prudent move, and in some cases it can be. However, it is important to consider the effect of the death of one of the joint account holders. The person with the intellectual disability may not have the skills needed to operate the account at that particular time or they may have their capacity questioned by the bank. In general, it is better to have a bank account in one individual’s name only, but where a joint bank account is needed it may be m There are many considerations to make when arranging your finances and it is worth bearing in mind what will happen after death. It is always advisable to consult a solicitor when planning your finances, but the areas below are the ones on which Inclusion Ireland receives the most queries. ore appropriate to have three signatories so that two remain if on of the parties should die.

Wills

If a person hasn’t made a will, then the rules of intestacy apply and the person’s estate (money/property) is divided between the spouse (66%), if alive, and children equally. If your spouse dies before you, the children will share the property equally. This may not always be appropriate, especially if a large amount of money is involved or there are questions about someone’s capacity to manage money or property.

There is a chance that someone who has an intellectual disability and inherits money will be made a ward of court, which can be restrictive on the person and affect areas of their life, such as travelling, deciding where to live or making medical decisions. While not everyone who inherits money is made a ward of court, it is something that can usually be avoided through proper writing of a will or setting up a trust fund with the aid of your solicitor.

Where a will has been made, parents may be concerned about how to make proper provision and appropriate arrangements for their son or daughter. It is very important that the current social welfare regulations are considered. All income and capital is considered means. Capital includes, for example, the value of savings, investments, shares, any property an individual may have (other than the home of the person being assessed). As of 2009, the first €50,000 of any capital a person has is not taken into account for means testing. Amounts above this will begin to affect state allowances and medical card entitlement.

Where there are other sons and daughters, it is worth remembering that there is no obligation to treat them equally in your will, it is sufficient that you considered their relative positions in life and made provision accordingly.

Trust funds

Some people consider that trust funds are a useful thing in arranging their finances within a will. A discretionary trust fund may be useful for parents of people with intellectual disabilities. Trustees are the people who oversee the trust fund, and they are chosen by the person setting up the trust. These people will release sums of money for particular purposes, to the beneficiary of the fund.

Other than wardship of court there is no system of guardianship for people over 18 and parents are often concerned they cannot appoint a guardian through a will. A discretionary trust can go some way in reassuring a parent that people will remain in close contact with their son or daughter in future years.

For the proper setting-up of trust funds and wills, it is important to get the advice of a solicitor and that the arrangements are reviewed regularly and any necessary changes made.

Social Welfare agency

Some parents may wish to assist their son or daughter with their weekly social welfare allowance and they may be able to do this through an agency agreement. A ‘type 2 agency’ can be organised by a social welfare officer. This is arranged where the person in receipt of the allowance cannot act on their own behalf and an agent is appointed.

Before deciding to appoint an agent, a social welfare officer will assess the circumstances and needs of the person and seek a medical certificate of incapacity. The agent nominated is often a family member, or staff of a nursing home or hospital.

State allowances

There are a number of state allowances that may be available for parents of people with intellectual disability and some of these are discussed below. (As with all state allowances, changes in amounts qualifying rules may be made in the national Budget.)

Carer’s Allowance is a payment directed toward people on low incomes who live with and look after certain people who need full-time care—with a disability or illness.

At present, if one is getting certain social welfare payments and also providing full-time care for another person, one can get Half-Rate Carer’s Allowance, subject to certain rules.

Respite Care Grant is automatically paid to people getting Carer’s Allowance in June of each year. The topics explored above are not exhaustive and are only some of the issues concerning parents at present. In the near future, Inclusion Ireland will be identifying frequently.asked questions from parents and compiling information that may be useful in coming to decisions about financial arrangements. If you have further questions, please contact us.

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