Setting up a guardianship for your special needs child

If you have a loved one with special needs, you know that it can be financially, physically and emotionally challenging to provide care. You work hard to provide the support he or she needs, but it is prudent to think about his or her care beyond your lifetime. It is possible that your family member could outlive you, and it is smart to have the necessary legal protections in place to ensure that he or she continues to get the care needed.

There are many ways that North Carolina families can plan for the care of a loved one with special needs. One of these is to set up a guardianship, which allows one person to make decisions on behalf of the ward. There are many situations that could necessitate this step. If you are caring for an adult with special needs or your child has certain disabilities, it is prudent to take the appropriate estate planning steps to put necessary protections in place.

What can guardians do? 

Essentially, a guardianship is an estate planning tool that allows one adult to make decisions on behalf of another. Generally, guardianships are established when a person is physically or mentally disabled. Whether you are seeking to become a guardian or you wish to set one up to ensure the care of a loved one, it is helpful to understand the responsibilities and rights of a guardian, as follows:

  • A guardian can make financial and non-financial decisions on behalf of the ward.
  • A guardian will ensure that the ward receives the medical care he or she needs.
  • A guardian will ensure the continued education of the ward.

The exact role of a guardian will depend on the circumstances of the individual situation. When the court is considering the appointment of a guardian or you are seeking to set up a guardianship, you would be wise to think about the immediate and long-term needs of the ward, as well as the guardian's ability to meet those needs.

Protecting your loved one through estate planning

There are estate planning tools available that can allow you to care for your loved ones long into the future. Naming a guardian for a family member with physical or mental disabilities can be overwhelming, but it can provide peace of mind to have certain protections in place.

Whether you are caring for a loved one or you have other concerns about the care of a family member who cannot care for himself or herself, you may find it beneficial to seek a complete explanation of your rights and legal options.

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