FAQs About Appointing A Guardian For Your Special Needs Child

As the parent of a special needs, you are charged with being an advocate for your child. Part of being an advocate is ensuring that your child's needs are met once he or she turns 18. To aid in your planning for your child's future here is what you need to know. 

Does Your Child Need a Guardian?

If your child has a mental illness or other disability that affects his or her ability to make decisions, it is possible that a guardian is necessary. A guardian is responsible for making decisions that are outlined by the court. This can include allowing the guardian to decide where your child lives and how any money he or she has is spent.  

Who Can Be a Guardian?

You can ask the court to appoint you as the guardian for your child. Remember, once he or she reaches the age of 18, your child is considered an adult. Even if your child still lives with you and you are responsible for his or her physical care, guardianship is still needed. 

The guardian can also be a friend or family member that you trust. If someone else is chosen for the guardian, you want to ensure that he or she is capable of advocating for your child. 

In some states, there is a preference for family members, such as the parent or adult sibling to serve as the guardian. However, a professional guardian can be appointed, too. 

Is More Than One Guardian Needed?

It is always a good idea to have an alternative guardian. In the event that the primary guardian is unable to serve, the alternative can serve. As the parent, taking steps to ensure a secondary guardian in place is important. He or she can be appointed after your death. This helps to assure you that your child's needs will continue to be met. 

Are There Alternatives?

If you do not want to have a guardian appointed for your child, there are other options for ensuring his or her needs are met. For instance, a durable power of attorney would allow someone the power to make decisions for your child if he or she is unable to make them. This is ideal if your child has a mental illness, but has periods of competency.

There is also the option of seeking professional help when your child turns 18. Your child could move into an assisted or supported living facility. In the facility, trained staff could provide the day-to-day care your child needs. 

Consult with a family law attorney (such as one from Topalian & Associates) to fully explore your options for ensuring your special needs child is taken care of once he or she reaches 18.