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How to Include Siblings in the Future Care of Your Child With Special Needs

Ali Katz


As you plan for what happens to your loved ones after you’re gone, one of your top priorities is ensuring the lifelong care and support of your child with special needs. Including their siblings in this plan can play a crucial role. Not only does this foster a supportive family environment, but it also ensures that all your children understand their roles and responsibilities, not only while you’re alive but also after you’re gone. So in this article, we’ll explore how you can effectively involve all your children in your estate planning and prepare them for future care roles, ensuring that everyone in your family is prepared and supported. 


The Importance of Involvement

First, it’s important to understand why it’s important to involve siblings in the planning process. There are two main reasons. It can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts after you're gone. Conflicts could have devastating consequences for a child with special needs, including a disruption in the continuation of care. But when they’re invested in the process, the chances of conflict are greatly diminished.

Including siblings in your planning also provides a sense of unity and shared responsibility among siblings, which can be crucial for the emotional well-being of your child with special needs. So start the planning process by having open discussions with your children about your family’s values, your child’s needs, and the expectations of each sibling as part of the support system. 


Legal Considerations

Next, understand the legal considerations in the planning process. Planning for a child with special needs is legally complicated, so don’t try this on your own! Instead, work with a trusted attorney to make sure your estate plan is clear and comprehensive. As your trusted attorney, I will support you to have all the legal structures in place, which may include a will or living trust, and any special needs trusts specifically designed to provide for your child’s future without jeopardizing their access to government benefits. I’ll also help you clearly outline the roles each sibling will play. For example, one might be named the trustee of a special needs trust, while another might be designated as the guardian. Know that there are many options, however, and I can help you decide what’s right for you and your child.

It’s also a good idea to educate your children about these legal structures so they understand their legal responsibilities. They need to understand not only the "what" and the "how" but also the "why" behind each decision you make. I can help you navigate discussions with your children and explain the implications and mechanics of trusts, guardianships, and other legal instruments in layperson's terms so they fully understand.


Financial Planning and Support

You should also involve siblings in financial planning discussions. If one sibling is financially more capable, consider structuring your plan to even out support responsibilities, perhaps through life insurance policies or other financial tools. Also, explore setting up an ABLE account for your special needs child, which siblings can contribute to without affecting disability benefits. I can guide you through these options and support you to make the best decisions for the ones you love.

In addition, and especially if your children are young or not financially savvy, consider teaching them how to responsibly manage money now. Offer opportunities for your children to learn about financial management, perhaps through workshops or consultations with financial advisors. This knowledge will empower them to handle their roles competently and confidently, and ensure your child with special needs has all the financial support she needs for her lifetime.


Emotional Preparedness

Preparing siblings emotionally is just as important as preparing them legally and financially. So encourage and facilitate ongoing relationships between them and your special needs child. Regular family meetings can help maintain these bonds and keep everyone informed about any changes in care needs or legal arrangements. If you aren’t sure how to hold the family meetings or what to discuss, I am happy to help.

Your children can also benefit from using all resources available to them. These might include counseling, support groups, or books on sibling relationships. Understanding the emotional landscape of their sibling’s world can foster empathy and patience, which are essential qualities for future caretakers.


Creating a Family Care Plan

Finally, draft a family care plan that includes input from all siblings. This plan should detail daily routines, emergency procedures, medical information, and long-term care expectations. Having a tangible, accessible document can alleviate stress during transitional periods and ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities. Clarity goes a long way!

And make sure this care plan is reviewed and updated regularly, ideally during family meetings where everyone can provide input and ask questions. This iterative process ensures that the plan evolves as your family’s needs and dynamics change.


It should now be clear that involving siblings in the estate planning process for a child with special needs is a multifaceted approach that requires careful consideration of legal, financial, and emotional factors. By addressing each of these areas thoughtfully and inclusively, with the help of a trusted attorney, helps you lay a strong foundation for a supportive family environment that endures long after you’re gone. Your dedication to this process not only secures your child's future but also strengthens the bonds among all your children, building a legacy of love and responsibility. What could make a parent happier?


The Trusted Advisor for Parents of Children With Special Needs

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we understand that every child with special needs is different, and that's why we offer a personalized approach and a comprehensive range of estate planning services, including special needs trusts and legal guardianship nominations, to create a plan that’s unique to your child and ensures your child’s success. As a trusted advisor, we’ll walk you through your unique situation and develop a plan that ensures your children have the physical, financial, and emotional support they need now and for years to come.