Choosing a Guardian for Your Special Needs Child

One of the most important decisions parents must make when preparing their estate plan is the choice of a guardian for their child should they be the ones to die first. The choice of guardian can be especially difficult for the parents of a child with special needs. Unfortunately, some people don’t put enough thought into their selection, choosing a close relative or friend regardless of that person’s background in dealing with children with special needs. Below is a checklist of important questions that parents should ask when choosing a guardian for their special needs child.

– Does the prospective guardian have the necessary maturity, experience, temperament, patience, and stamina to undertake the responsibilities as guardian of the special needs child?
– Does the individual selected have a genuine interest in the child’s welfare, either through family relationship or personal friendship, and have the confidence of the minor and parent?

– Does the prospective guardian have some understanding of the emotional needs of the child or the willingness and ability to obtain skilled guidance on this subject?

– Is the prospective guardian a person of integrity and stability?

– Is the individual physically able to undertake the care of a special needs child, and does the individual have the time necessary to devote to this task?

– Is the prospective guardian’s personal situation, religion, age, marital status, other children, personality traits, and similar factors acceptable to the parent?

– Will sufficient funds be available to cover the costs of caring for the child throughout the period of guardianship and, if the child is to live with the guardian, to enable the guardian and family to meet the increased strain on their resources?

– Is the prospective guardian willing to serve?

– Is the prospective guardian willing and able to give the special needs child an upbringing similar to that which the parent would have provided financially, socially, morally, and in other ways important to the parent?

– Does age of the prospective guardian pose any problems?

– Does the prospective guardian have any conflicts of interest with the minor?

The above list can be a great starting point for parents of a special needs child in preparing their estate plan, and can help focus the search for the best possible guardian.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.