Parenting is always a lifelong commitment. However, the parents of children with special needs know that this commitment means something different for them than for other parents. Parents of children with special needs that require additional care and support beyond the age of eighteen choose to become limited or full legal guardians of their adult children.

Plan for the future: Yours and theirs

One thing you should plan for—one thing most parents would hope for—is that your child will likely outlive you. This eventuality means that you need to make provisions both financially and legally for the welfare of your special needs child. This can involve multiple legal actions but should certainly include choosing a successor guardian to make the transition for your child as smooth as possible. The successor guardian is the person who will take over for you if you can no longer perform your duties or upon your death.

Select a successor guardian

As the individual you will be nominating to the court will essentially be taking over your duties as a parent, this is an important decision which you should consider carefully. Who do you trust? Who knows and shares your values? Who has an established relationship with the adult child with special needs they would be caring for?

Talk to the candidate

Becoming a guardian is a large responsibility. It’s important to discuss the responsibilities with any potential successor before nominating them officially in a will or other legal document. Are they comfortable with the idea? Do they want to become a guardian? What would the arrangement look like? Who would move where to provide care? Discuss the realities of the appointment and the challenges. If they are not in favor of the idea, make sure you have another candidate in mind.

Put it in writing

Once you have a successor who has agreed to become guardian to your special needs child in the event of your incapacitation or death, put it in your estate plan in order to protect your child and preserve their lifestyle.