As much as you may love your extended family, they may pose some problems for you when it comes to providing for your special needs child. Many family members love to help out by babysitting, providing financial assistance, driving children to events and attending medical appointments with the child. However, this can actually become a problem if it is not made clear who is actually in charge of the special needs individual before he or she turns 18 years old.
In the best scenarios, these individuals will be perfectly competent to make their own decisions for their health, physical welfare and finances upon turning 18. In some cases though, these individuals may not be able to make some decisions for themselves due to physical or mental disabilities. They will instead depend on other adults to make certain decisions for them. This is where many extended family members like to become involved. They may believe that they know what is best for the special needs individual, or they may feel attached to them because they have often helped in the past.
A legal document must be in place to allow anyone to make decisions for someone over the age of 18 even if that person has long been designated as having special needs. While Letters of Intent may be a helpful place to start in telling extended family members what each person is responsible for, the best option legally is the legal guardianship.
A legal guardianship puts one or more people in charge of the special needs adult. This is oftentimes his or her parents, but it could be a grown sibling, extended family member of close family friend. The legal guardian may be in charge of all decisions for the individual or may only be in charge of one or two areas, such as finances or medical care.
A special needs trust may also be a good way to provide direction for extended family members. These individuals may want to leave money to the special needs individual in their wills, but this could significantly alter the amount of government benefits that the person can receive. With the trust, money can be distributed for the use of the special needs individual without being given directly to them.