As you probably know as a reader of my blog, I actively promote naming guardians for your children. It is critical to be sure that someone is on standby to raise your child if the unexpected happens. The more you plan, the better your chances are that your child will continue to thrive even if you cannot be there. For parents of children who have special needs, the need for a guardian often goes well beyond the age when the child is legally an adult in the eyes of the law. As a Fairfax Virginia special needs planning lawyer, I have seen this over and over.
At Age 18, Your Child with Disabilities Will Assume the Rights and Responsibilities of Legal Adults
Many parents assume that because their child is disabled, they will still be able to make decisions and retain control of the child’s care once he or she turns 18. Not true. Once your child turns 18, he or she is an adult in the eyes of the law, regardless of his or her disabilities or special needs. The only way for mom or dad to continue to have a say is through a process known as guardianship. This is awarded by the courts and will allow the parents to continue to manage their child’s decisions for them as they have done for their entire life.
Wait—What Happens If the Guardian Passes Away?
This is a commonly overlooked issue among parents of children with special needs. Parents should also take the time to name a successor guardian for their child. This will allow someone to immediately step in if something should happen to the primary guardian. Alternatively, they can appoint a co-guardian to serve simultaneously, in which case the surviving guardian will continue to serve as sole guardian upon the death of one of them.
If your special child needs additional help with decision making due to a disability, you should develop a plan immediately. It is best to work with a special needs planning attorney who has experience with the rules and laws associated with your unique circumstances. If you would like help getting started, give the law office of Sheri R. Abrams a call at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.