Special Needs Trusts and Guardianship

There are parts of parenting a special needs child that are very hard. If your child cannot make decisions for themselves and receives government benefits, Special Needs Trust and Guardianship is a legal activity that you should explore. The paperwork looks fairly easy, but contemplating a future for a child with special needs can often fill a parent with worry. Who will look after my child if I am no longer here? What can be done to make sure they have the financial stability to have a good quality of life? What does my child need to make them happy? Who will be in charge of their finances? Where will they live? In New York, schools must explore transition services when a student turns l6. Before this milestone is reached consider whether you know these two things—“What is a trust?” and “How do I dictate who will have guardianship for my child if something were to happen to me?”

I have been fortunate to attend many seminars on transition, trusts and guardianship. I can safely say for my daughter, Sara, I had every box checked on the New York State Department of Education guidelines for transition. I had a great attorney who was very warm and had interviewed our family, met Sara several times, and had reviewed issues that were important to us. I applied to the Surrogate Court for a date to grant guardianship. All the documents were completed for a health care proxy, a will, a trust, limited power of attorney & advance directives—all completed before that date. I wrote a “Letter of Intent” which is a document describing your wishes to your family about what is important to you and what you would like your child’s life to look like. I added stand by guardians and new members to the trust. I should have been happy with what a great job I had completed; instead I was very surprised how sad I was. The idea of not being there to hug Sara at the end of the day weighed heavy on my soul. I worried about who would watch out for her health needs as carefully as I would. Luckily for me, I have watched Sara’s sister Melissa grow up to be a strong, hardworking,  talented, loving and devoted sister. Melissa and her husband are the right people to keep up my work. I am sure they will do a great job.  Please explore these legal supports, but be careful, the emotional component for me wound up to be surprisingly more difficult than the forms.Image

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