Nobody lives forever, which is why the parents of special-needs children need to plan ahead. When you have an adult child with special needs, there will come a time when you’re no longer around to protect them and make sure that their needs are met — and that means picking a guardian to serve in your place.

While you can’t actually “will” guardianship of your adult child to someone else, you can use your estate plan to set things up so that the court is likely to approve your choice of guardian later. Plus, you can arrange for a special needs trust that can be administered by the person of your choice, which will further protect your child’s interests and provide for their needs.

How do you pick the right guardian? There’s no hard-and-fast answer, but there are things you should consider:

  • Does your child with special needs have any siblings? Are any of those siblings actively engaged with them? It’s never a bad idea to consult with your other children about a special-needs child’s future. One of them may step forward and ask for the job or they may have strong opinions about who should (and shouldn’t) take over for you.
  • Are there any other family members or close friends who would accept guardianship? Absent a sibling, another relative or close family friend may be willing to handle the job. Before you pick someone, make sure that they are in a position where they can easily take over and know what they will need to handle.
  • Would a professional guardian be better? If there’s nobody in the family or among your friends who is willing and able to serve, the court can appoint a professional in your place. You may want to find out how you can make sure that the assets you leave behind are protected from misuse when a stranger is involved.
  • Is there a plan for temporary help? What happens if you become incapacitated prior to your death? That could leave your adult child in limbo with nobody to guide them. Making arrangements for someone to handle the job temporarily — until the new guardian can be appointed — could be important.

Talk your guardianship concerns over with your estate planning attorney. They have experience with these kinds of situations and can often offer invaluable insights.