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How to protect a child with special needs when they turn 18

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2022 | Estate Planning |

For most children, reaching the age of 18 is a major milestone. They become legal adults, completely independent of their parents in theory. However, for children with special needs, the age of 18 simply means they are now more vulnerable than they were previously.

As a parent with a child who is about to reach adulthood, you very likely worry about their financial future and medical needs. You can take steps now to properly protect your child.

You can create special documents for your child’s needs

Even though your teenage child has more challenges to overcome than their peers, your relationship will still have the same disruption to your parental authority that all families experience when your child turns 18.

If you believe that your child will move out and live independently eventually or into a group home with other young adults that have a similar diagnosis, you may want to create certain medical paperwork. Powers of attorney and healthcare surrogate designation documents will play an important role in giving you access to medical information about your child and the authority to take steps on their behalf.

Sometimes, the issues compromising a child’s functions are significant enough to warrant guardianship. In such cases, you will need to go to court to prove they can not handle the demands of independence.

You can seek a guardianship

Parents with special needs children that are about to turn 18 can start preparing paperwork to submit to the Florida courts to prove their child’s incapacity and request guardianship. Diagnostic information and other medical records affirming a teenage child’s limitations and medical issues will help convince a judge that guardianship is necessary.

Guardianship over an adult with special needs creates roughly the same protections as parenting offers. You have responsibility for meeting the child’s needs on a day-to-day basis and control over their medical, financial and legal matters. To ensure they have proper protection and support even after you die, you may want to create a special needs trust for their inheritance or personal assets.

Talking to someone familiar with the unique needs of parents who have children with special needs can help you determine the best plans to put in place for the protection of your child as they approach their 18th birthday.