Your estate planning checklist may consist of making a will, establishing a trust and creating an advance health care directive. If you have an adult child with special needs, however, that list should also contain one more thing: a guardianship.
You do not want your son or daughter to endure what a mentally disabled Wisconsin man did; that is, give thousands of dollars away to a felon he thought was a friend, who got away with it because she had not forced or coerced him to do it. His mother was there to catch the signs before it got even worse, but what if she had not been there for him? Fortunately, you have ways to prevent such a situation from happening to your child when you pass on.
Legal options for guardianship
Florida prefers to grant as much independence to disabled adult children as possible. This means that you have several options in guardianship. You can limit what the guardian has control over and can make decisions about. You can even appoint a power of attorney or other specific role if a full guardianship is not necessary. The type and associated duties are things to discuss with your spouse, your child and a Florida estate planning attorney.
Choosing the right guardian
As you decide on who to name as guardian, remember that not all predators are strangers who suddenly appear in their victims’ lives. There may be untrustworthy people within your own family and circle of friends.
Do not assume that just because you have known someone for a long time, he or she would make an honest or competent guardian. Consider the person’s background, the comfort level of your child around the person, and the person’s abilities, experience and availability.
Other ways to protect your child
Besides establishing a solid guardianship in your estate plan, you can also educate your adult child. According to his or her mental capacity, you can talk about basic finances and qualities of true friendships. Awareness of even a few red flags can help protect your child.