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Planning ahead: Picking your disabled child's future guardian

The natural order of things usually means that children outlive their parents -- and that's a big concern when you're the parent of a disabled child who will never be able to function completely independently.

How do you pick a guardian or conservator for your child once you are gone? It's natural to worry that you'll make the wrong choice and that the person you choose won't take the sort of care of your child that you'd expect.

Here are some things to consider as you make your decisions:

1. Who do you believe could handle the responsibility?

You'll be asking a lot of the person you choose, so you first need to narrow down your list to the people that you think can -- and will -- take on the task. While you can turn to an attorney or an agency, if all else fails, it's always preferable to choose someone you know.

Consider the following things as you think about the candidates:

  • Their financial stability
  • Their physical health
  • Their emotional capacity to handle the job
  • Their location
  • Their affection for your child

All of these things are important when it comes to choosing a responsible, capable person for the job.

2. What do you envision your child's life to be like?

Will your child eventually have to be confined to a nursing home or a care facility of some sort? Will he or she be able to live in assisted living or a halfway house under supervision? Will he or she need just minimal support, guidance and someone to help with his or her financial matters?

You need to think about this in advance so that you can discuss your expectations with the guardian or conservator you choose. The level of responsibility you expect can influence someone's decision to accept the task.

3. Will the person you've chosen accept the job?

This is definitely not something that should ever come as a huge shock to someone after you're gone. Talk everything over with the person you'd prefer to take on the job and then be prepared to give that person some time to think it over.

Once you've got a commitment, talk to a special needs planning attorney about your decision and make sure that everything is put in writing. Then, you'll know your child's future is secure.

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