If you’re a parent, planning for your child’s future is paramount. Having your estate in order to allocate assets and establish guardianship in your absence is a prudent measure, but some parents have unique situations to consider.

If you have a special needs child that’s nearing the age of 18, you may need to look into guardianship to assist with some facets of adulthood. Once your child is 18, they’ll have the legal right to make decisions regarding their health and finances. If they are physically or mentally incapacitated, it could be in their best interests for another party to be tasked with those responsibilities.

It’s important to note that a guardianship for a mentally or physically disabled person is designed to foster independence. The idea is that a guardian takes on only the tasks that the ward is unable to perform, to give them a more independent life. The court can grant the following types of powers to a guardian:

Making medical decisions for your child.
Deciding on financial matters.
Keeping the court updated on your child’s living, medical, and financial situations.

Parents don’t always need to assume the role of guardianship. In Massachusetts, the court will allow any qualified person over the age of 18 to become a guardian, although parents usually receive priority. A thorough criminal background check is required, however, for the safety of the ward. A ward may also have more than one guardian.

The decision to file for guardianship for your special needs child is a subjective one. You’ll want to consider their limitations, as well as how they can best achieve normalcy in their life. If you believe guardianship is the best option for your child, you’ll want to file well in advance of their 18th birthday. This measure ensures that everything is in place at legal emancipation.

You want the best for your special needs child. A guardianship can sometimes provide a helping hand to ease them into adulthood.