My name is Michelle Morgan-Coole and I reside in the beautiful Annapolis Valley with my husband and two teenage daughters (heaven help us all!), both of whom struggle with differing levels of disability.
Besides being a mother, I am also a lawyer (and a member of the Nova Scotia Bar since 1991) and this combination has given me a keen passion to use the law to assist persons with disabilities. I would like to think that being able to understand and move within the two often very different worlds of law and disability has allowed me to become a strong and effective advocate for the disabled.
Although I was forced to give up the practice of law in 1994 due to the significant needs of my oldest daughter, I remained active in the legal field by working as a Legal Analyst for various lawyers around the Province, I am pleased to say that, as of July 1, 2014, I have returned to the practice of law on a part-time basis (MMC Legal Services).
My first formal involvement with regard to advocating for persons with disabilities was as one of the co-founders of a local cross-disability parent support group in 2000. Since that time, I have worked both informally with many parents to assist their children to better and more fully access the educational system and participated in more formal pro bono legal work for families with disabilities along side like-minded lawyers.
A Primer on Special Needs and the Law
I started A Primer on Special Needs and the Law in 2007, with the intent of providing practical advice to assist parents and guardians of children with special needs in Nova Scotia with navigating the educational and community services systems.
Having somewhat expanded from that initial idea, the blawg now attempts to provide timely and practical information to individuals with disabilities and their families on numerous issues, including special education, various government programs, human rights and future planning for persons with disabilities (along with the appropriate use of such tools as Powers of Attorney, Wills, the Henson Trust and the Registered Disability Savings Plan).
The continued coverage of issues surrounding the formation and implementation of the RDSP on this blawg led to an invitation from PLAN to sit on its regional implementation committee in 2008. This committee was ultimately successful in having the RDSP exempted, at least partially, from each province’s and territory’s social assistance system in order to ensure that the RDSP will be a meaningful and accessible vehicle for individuals with disabilities.
The Nova Scotia Legal Guardianship Kit
Between the advent of new federal privacy legislation (which addresses the privacy of medical records and provides stiff penalties for providing access to such records without clear authority) and the introduction of the RDSP (which provides extremely limited options for opening a Plan on behalf of an adult who is not considered legally competent unless someone has guardianship) issues surrounding guardianship have become of particular interest to me over the past few years.
With the cost of retaining a lawyer to bring a guardianship application in Nova Scotia reaching into the several thousands of dollars (the majority of quotes appearing to be between $5,000 - $6.000), I realized that guardianship has simply not been a realistic option for many families in Nova Scotia. And yet there are some very significant reasons why guardianship might be in the best interests of a person with an intellectual disability.
It was the recognition of this situation that led to the creation of the Nova Scotia Legal Guardianship Kit, an option that allows families to acquire guardianship of their adult son or daughter at a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer. We now have definitive proof that not every parent seeking guardianship of their challenged adult child in this Province needs to hire a lawyer to do so. You can learn more about the Nova Scotia Legal Guardianship Kit (and how to purchase it) by following the link.
I also offer presentations of interest to the disability community on legal and financial matters. You can find a full list of those presentations on my Face Book page. Please feel free to contact me for more details.
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I welcome feedback and ideas for topics you are interested in learning more about on the blawg. To provide either, just drop me an email.
So I hope you will stick around. As any parent of a child with a disability knows, the saga most definitely continues.
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I am pleased to announce that I have returned to the practice of law on a part-time basis as of July 1, 2014. My new firm (MMC Legal Services) is a disability-specific practice - meaning that I only take on cases involving disability issues. In particular, I would like to re-wet my feet by initially doing some guardianship applications and Wills containing the Henson Trust, two issues that have received prominent attention at A Primer on Special Needs and the Law. I also like the idea of giving families the option of proceeding on their own via the Nova Scotia Legal Guardianship Kit or hiring me to bring a guardianship application.
Wish me luck!