When you have children, you know it’s your responsibility to ensure care and financial stability for your offspring until they are old enough to provide for themselves. Most of the time, the age of majority or the age when a child finishes a college education are when parental responsibilities begin to taper off. For those with special needs children, including children with autism or Down syndrome, support and care may be necessary indefinitely.
Thankfully, when you choose to plan your estate, you can ensure that there will be assets available to your special needs child. Creating a special needs trust is often the best option for ensuring financial support for your child after your death. However, you likely also need to consider social support, such as an adult guardian, to watch over and care for your child after you’re gone.
A guardian could protect your child from financial abuse
Financial abuse is a serious concern for anyone who has substantial assets and does not have the mental faculties to protect themselves from conniving and manipulative people. Older adults are common targets for unethical people who see them as a means to a financial payout. Those with special needs could also end up targeted, unless you take special steps to protect your child. A trust can reduce the potential for financial abuse and manipulation, but a special needs trust can’t manage everything for your child.
You need to carefully consider whom you name as trustee. If your child’s condition is severe enough to warrant guardianship as an adult, you may consider naming the same person as trustee and guardian. In other situations, having two people assigned to these roles can allow both guardian and trustee to monitor the other for signs of financial abuse.
Select someone with patience and a strong sense of ethics
Not everyone has the ability to work and live closely with a special needs adult. No matter how much you love and trust the people you consider for the position as guardian or trustee for your child, you need to seriously consider their levels of ability and patience. Even those who truly care for you and your child could end up feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by the responsibilities involved when the time comes.
You should talk with each potential guardian and trustee to see if they have concerns about fulfilling the obligations of the role. You may also want to discuss the decision with your child. He or she could have strong feelings about certain people, which could help guide you to a better final decision. Keep in mind that you can also split responsibilities among several people (naming two or more trustees or guardians). It’s also possible to incentivize people by allocating compensation to the trustee or guardian in your estate plan or trust documents.