Choosing a guardian for your child with autism

No one can replace a parent. Though it’s unpleasant to think about, someone else will possibly need to step in and take care of your child if something happens to you. Choosing a guardian is one of the most important pieces of estate planning because it determines who that person will be.

Does my child need a guardian?

It is recommended for anyone with children under the age of 18 to appoint a guardian in their estate plan. This person will assume responsibilities for your child if you pass away or are otherwise incapacitated.

If your child has special needs, including autism, guardianship may need to extend past the age where they become a legal adult. You will need to consider your child’s ability to potentially live on their own successfully. You may need to appoint a guardian for an adult child if they are unable to care for themselves or manage assets.

What are the different types of guardians?

Depending on the age and ability of your child, you may want to choose different types of guardians. There is a guardian of the person, which means they will be in charge of caring for and making medical decisions for your child. There is also a guardian of the estate, which means they care for financial and physical assets that belong to the child. Your guardian can also be both, which is a general guardian.

You can also choose between joint and individual guardians. You may choose one person to care for your child, or you may want more than one, possibly a couple, to work together.

What should I consider when choosing a guardian?

As with any child, you should be careful as you decide who will care for them. When your child has autism, you will have some unique things to consider. Here are just a few questions to ask about your potential guardian as you begin:

  • Do you trust this person?
  • Are they willing and able to care for your child should the need arise? Are they willing and able to care for an adult with special needs?
  • What is their relationship with your child like?
  • Do they have experience with people with autism?
  • Do they understand or can learn how to best care for a child with autism?
  • Can they make informed medical decisions for your child?
  • Are they responsible and can manage financial assets?

Of course, the guardian you choose will depend on which type of guardianship your child may require. The best thing to do when deciding who you will name as a guardian is to talk to a lawyer and your potential guardians. It is important to have open and honest conversations so that you can make the best decisions for your loved ones.

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