If you have a child who has a developmental disability, there is the potential that they may need ongoing support well into adulthood. Especially in the later teenage years and early adulthood, many teen and adult children with developmental disabilities rely on their parents and guardians to support them.
As a parent to a child who has some developmental disabilities, it’s your responsibility to assign a guardian in the case of your death or disability. Setting this up and making sure the guardian you select is ready for that role is key.
Can you set up a guardian for your adult child before they’re an adult?
In your estate plan, the type of guardianship you’ll set up is one that assigns a guardian in the case that you cannot take care of your child while they’re under the age of 18. After your child is an adult, you will need to petition for guardianship of them. At that point, you may be able to set up a new guardianship in your estate plan to help care for them, as an adult, if you pass away or are disabled and cannot provide them with adequate care.
Why do you need to do this twice? The reality is that any interested party can seek guardianship of your adult child once they’re 18 or older. At that point, they’re legally an adult, so any guardianship plans you had for them as a minor would become null.
If you’re reading this and think it’s a little confusion, you’re right. Guardianships for minors and guardianships over adult people with disabilities are different. That’s why you need to plan for those at alternate times.
Is there any way to protect your child if you pass away before they’re an adult but you know they’ll need a guardian?
It’s a good idea to be open with your family about your concerns and to see if there is anyone who would be willing to take on that role in the future. Consider adding them as your child’s guardian in the case of your death prior to their 18th birthday. Then, when they turn 18, the guardian they had in the past can seek to become one for them as an adult.