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How do I name a guardian for a child with special needs?

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How do I name a guardian for a child with special needs?

Parents of a minor child should have a plan for guardianship in the event that both parents die or become incapacitated before that child reaches the age of majority. Parents of a child with special needs who will need a guardian after reaching the age of 18 should also have a plan in place.

If you don’t name a guardian in your will, a judge—who doesn’t know you or your child—will decide who will raise your child without knowing your preference in the matter. An adult with special needs could even end up in a residential program against your wishes. Even if you have named a guardian in your will, a judge will still need to appoint the guardian but will almost always honor your wishes.

Choosing a Guardian

The decision to choose a guardian for your child with special needs is a difficult one. Often, parents spend so much time worrying about making the right choice that they end up not making a choice at all. The key is to make a list of potential candidates while weighing the following in your deliberations:

Your child's needs

Only you know what goes into caring for your child with special needs. The guardian you choose should be willing and able to provide that care and to continue the child’s ongoing therapies and treatments.


Your parents might be the first relatives you think of to raise your child, but are they going to be capable of raising your child? Will age-related issues prevent them from providing adequate care?


Think about where you’d like your child to be raised. If you want him to stay in a certain school or have access to a specific program, your guardian should live nearby.

Belief system

Do the potential guardians’ views on discipline, education, religion, and other lifestyle choices align with yours? Will they support the kinds of treatments or therapies you have chosen for your child?

Family situation

Consider how well your child would fit in with the family of the guardian. Will the other children be accepting of your child? Will the guardians have time to provide the kind of care required?

Once you’ve made a list of potential candidates, talk to them about it and find out if they are willing to be named. Encourage them to be honest in their answers. Give them time to think about it. Once you hear back from potential candidates and make a decision, you should make this information part of your will.

Choosing an Alternate Guardian

Even if the person has verbally agreed to be your child’s guardian, they are not obligated to do so—even if it is in your will. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a backup guardian named.

A special needs estate planning attorney can ensure that your personal affairs are in order and that your child with special needs will be cared for properly when you are gone.

Contact the Jarvis Law Office so we can help you evaluate your specific needs and provide updates when needed.

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