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Questions to ask before establishing guardianship of a child with special needs

If you have a child with special needs, you have undoubtedly grappled with concerns about his or her future. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to determine whether your child will require a guardian after he or she turns 18 years of age. 

In most cases, people living with disabilities are still perfectly capable of handling the nuances of everyday life. They can live on their own without the help of a guardian. However, there are times when establishing guardianship is the best option, and parents may need to ask themselves some tough questions before taking this important step. 

It is usually best to establish guardianship sooner rather than later.

An important thing to understand is that establishing guardianship of a family member is often best handled before the child turns 18. That is when it's not an adversarial process. Establishing guardianship of a minor child with special needs tends to be far less complicated than establishing guardianship of an adult with special needs.

Questions to Ask

1. Does the child's naivete put him/her in danger?

Does your child understand boundaries and consequences of actions? Does he or she understand and heed warnings to stay away from certain locations or people? Would your child be an easy target for hackers or thieves?

2. Is the child able to make important healthcare decisions?

Many children with disabilities need to take medications well into their adult lives. In many cases, adults with special needs end up not taking their proper medications, and a person with legal guardianship may be needed to remind the child to take medications and see a doctor regularly.

3. Is the child able to handle his/her finances?

A big concern after a child turns 18 is whether he or she will be able to handle money matters, and there may be additional concerns such as government benefits -- Supplemental Security Income, for example.

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then establishing guardianship may be the best course of action. Some guardians play a fairly hands-off role whereby they only help a child under certain circumstances. There are also guardians who look after a child every day. An attorney can help you determine the least restrictive yet most protective option for your child.

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