Planning for your child’s future can be stressful, but that stress further compounds when your child has special needs. The designation of special needs encompasses a broad spectrum of cognitive disabilities and when children near legal adulthood it can be difficult to decide whether or not to seek guardianship over them.
If your child is a minor you still have guardianship over them and can make legal, medical and financial decisions for them, but once they turn 18 your authority abruptly ends. Not every disabled child needs to have a guardian, yet in some cases guardianship is an obvious choice.
What does a guardian do?
In summary, a guardian manages affairs for a disabled person. The authority of the guardian varies and the extent to which the affairs are managed is different for each situation.
If your child is severely disabled a guardian would have full control over decisions such as medical care and financial management. Occasionally, the guardian will choose a home for the incapacitated child if they cannot manage their care needs.
In cases when the child can make good choices and care for their basic needs, a limited guardianship is more appropriate. Perhaps your child can hold a job and maintain their own residence and the guardian only manages money over a certain dollar amount, leaving the day to day decisions up to the child.
Who can be a guardian?
In most cases a parent, or both parents, would be the guardian, but anyone over 18 is eligible. A guardian should be trustworthy and have the child’s best interest at heart, while also being able to set limits and make tough choices. When naming a guardian, make sure to consider the relationship between the child and potential guardian, if relations are strained that person may not be a good choice.
Parents of special needs children should name a successor guardian to serve when they no longer can. Before naming a guardian, make sure your chosen person is willing to take on the responsibility. Establishing a special needs trust can ensure your child is provided for after your death.
As a parent, you know your child’s capacity best but it’s still a good idea to seek legal advice when making decisions with long term repercussions.