Many California parents think about the possibility of a time when they will no longer be here to care for their loved ones, especially children who are minors. When a child has special needs, such worries are often intensified. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make, however, is to designate a specific person for a particular role when executing estate plans without first discussing the issue with the person in question.
A parent might reasonably assume that sons and daughters who have no disabilities or special needs will automatically step up to care for a sibling who does if both parents are deceased or have become incapacitated. One mother, in particular, assumed that this would be the case with her son and daughter regarding care of their brother who is autistic and has ADHD. A family dispute arose when the son and daughter both informed the mother that they do not wish to be designated as their brother’s caretakers.
ESTATE PLANS CAN BE CUSTOMIZED TO FIT PERSONAL NEEDS AND GOALS
Multiple estate planning documents can help a parent provide for a child with special needs, such as certain types of trusts. Another document that a parent might consider signing is one that designates legal guardianship over a minor child, especially if that child has special needs. To avoid problems as the mother mentioned earlier experienced, it is always best to ask the person one has in mind for guardianship if he or she is willing to take on the role, should the need arise.
FAMILY DISCUSSIONS AHEAD OF TIME CAN HELP PREVENT PROBLEMS DOWN THE LINE
It would be disastrous if a person who was designated as a legal guardian or caretaker for a special needs family member were to state that he or she was unaware of the designation and does not wish to assume the role of guardian or caretaker. A person who is preparing his or her California estate plans will want to discuss such issues with any and all people who will be mentioned in the will or other documents. If a legal problem arises, it is helpful to seek support from an experienced estate law attorney.