Estate planning for families with special needs

When children with disabilities turn 18, your ability as a parent to make decisions for their care and future become limited. Specific long-term planning decisions can help your family better plan for the future.

Davis Brown estate planning attorneys can assist you in the application for governmental benefits, including Social Security and Medicaid, help guide you to the right options for your family, and help you achieve your long-term goals for the health of your children and your family.  

Guardianships and Conservatorships are options for families with adult children who are unable to make decisions for themselves.

Your attorney can assist you in preparing the necessary court filings to request that a judge grant you the guardianship or conservatorship.

A limited guardianship or limited conservatorship should be used whenever possible to meet your child’s needs while maintaining independence for your adult child.


When a judge grants a guardianship of an adult, the guardian has the authority to make decisions for that individual as it relates to their care, including:

  • medical needs
  • education
  • counseling and other psychiatric care
  • residential arrangements

For parents, this allows you to continue managing the healthcare needs of your child:

  • making and attending doctor appointments
  • reviewing medical records
  • choosing specialists
  • deciding on treatments


When a judge grants a conservatorship of an adult, the conservator has the authority to make decisions for that individual as it relates to their finances, including income and property ownership.

A conservatorship allows the parents of a child with disabilities to:

  • manage bank accounts
  • buy and sell property, including real estate
  • make investment decisions

Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney

In cases where the person in question does have the necessary legal capacity, they can grant a power of attorney to someone of their choosing.

Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney documents allow another person to make financial and medical decisions.

Davis Brown attorneys can assist you with drafting these documents; no court proceeding is involved.

Special Needs Planning

As families consider the future care of their children, special attention should be taken when drafting estate planning documents. 

If your child receives Social Security benefits, Medicaid, or other governmental benefits, inheriting an estate can put those benefits at risk.

Your attorney can assist you with setting up a Special Needs Trust, Supplemental Needs Trust, and other vehicles so that an inheritance does not put your child as risk.

We can help evaluate your current financial status, the goals for your family, and the needs of all your heirs, including those with disabilities, in order to develop the best plan for your family’s needs.


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