The possibility of unexpected death or incapacity is something no parent likes to think about, but as Brandon special needs lawyers, it’s our job to ensure that families are legally prepared for the worst.
With that said, imagine being involved in a serious accident or suddenly dying today without the authorities or medical personnel knowing that you have minor children at home, including a child with special needs.
It could take hours before the authorities even figure out who you are and even longer to get in contact with your spouse or other family members. Your kids may start to become anxious, or maybe their babysitter or school contacts the police and panic sets in as everyone tries to figure out what to do next.
Even worse, imagine social services removing your kids from the house during this devastating time because they can’t find legal documentation that says who the kids are permitted to stay with if something happens to you (…contrary to popular belief, another friend or family member can’t just “volunteer” to step in until the surviving parent or permanent guardian arrives!). Your kids could be forced into the arms of strangers until a judge can make this critical decision on your behalf.
This is a terrible scenario for any child, but it’s something that could be devastating and traumatic for a child with special needs. Perhaps your child struggles around strangers or has issues with transitions or managing his or her emotions. If you want the peace of mind knowing that the police or authorities would at least be aware of your child’s sensitivities or unique needs, we always recommend that parents of minor children take the following steps:
- Create a Card For Your Wallet For Emergency Purposes- You can do this yourself with a laminated piece of paper and a sharpie pen. Use the card to alert authorities that you have minor kids at home and be specific about your child’s special needs (e.g. the child has autism, is wheelchair-bound, struggles with emotional outbursts.). Then, list out who is to be contacted in the event of an emergency to help with your children in your absence.
- Name Legal Guardians For Your Kids- If you are a single parent or if your spouse is not immediately available to take custody of your kids if something happens, the authorities will have no choice but to take placement of your children until another parent arrives or a judge decides where the children should go. However, parents can name their own legal guardians in their Will that will permit someone else to take custody of their kids in an emergency situation. This can help ensure that your children are never placed in the care of a stranger if something happens to you.
- Leave instructions and copies of your guardianship nominations with your child’s school, babysitters, and neighbors. That way, if you don’t make it home to your kids, everyone will be on the same page and know who to immediately contact so that your kids are surrounded by people who will comfort and care for them during a trying time.
If you have not yet documented your choice of legal guardians or created a plan for the long-term care for your child with special needs if something happens to you, please feel free to contact our Brandon special needs planning law firm at (813) 438-8503 to schedule an appointment.