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With the second full week of January here, the question that many people are facing is whether they are still following through on their New Year’s resolutions. As we noted in a prior post, estate planning should be such a resolution if there are no documents in place to provide directions in the event of you are incapacitated. This may apply to how your assets are handled, decisions about you to treat you medically, and who may care for your children.

The reasons for estate plans, and their complexities, may vary depending on each person’s circumstances. For those who care for special needs children, especially those who are approaching the age of majority, it is critical to have these documents in place.  This post will highlight a few ways that special needs children can be protected. 

Guardianships – This is basically a legally recognized relationship between a child and someone who is not their parent who is appointed to manage the child’s personal affairs. These are commonly used with children because as a matter of law, they cannot legally enter contracts. Guardianships can also be used with vulnerable adults to help them with decision-making involving medical care, financial matters or other complex matters.

Conservatorships – A conservatorship can also be used to manage a child’s finances. This may also apply to an adult who does not have the mental capacity to handle his or her own affairs. Essentially, the conservator has a fiduciary duty to the protected person. This means that the conservator must have the proper money management skills and must manage the person’s funds as if they were his own.

If you have questions about these methods of protecting special needs children, an experienced estate planning attorney can help.