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Important legal and financial documents

by Mary Mazzoni on June 16, 2012

As you plan for the future with your child, certain legal and financial documents are critically important. What documents are essential and how can you keep track of them all?

The specific documents relevant to your child will depend on his or her unique needs.

This post does not provide legal or financial planning advice. Instead, it will prompt you to ask specific questions as you work with qualified professionals. And it will help you organize important documents.

Footprints for the Future

This personal planning manual developed by the Arc of East Middlesex is a structured guide to organizing important information and documentation. In addition to sections on legal and financial matters, it provides a structure to document medical information, personal needs and preferences, employment and educational history, and contact information for family and friends.

Downloaded Footprints for the Future here.

Must-have documents

Attorney Bernard A. Krooks recently wrote an extremely helpful post for parents of youth and adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities on the Friendship Circle blog. Entitled “10 Must-Have Documents for Parents of Children with Special Needs”  - the post can be accessed here.

You’ll notice that this post references a Letter of Intent.  A checklist for writing a Letter of Intent can be found here.

The post also refers to special needs trusts. Want to learn more about special needs trusts? A newly updated collection of resources can be found here.

Carrying important documents

Documentation of power of attorney or legal guardianship

If your child has reached age 18 or over and you have obtained legal guardianship or power of attorney, be sure to carry copies of the documentation with you – as well as having original documentation filed at home.

Why? You may need to prove your legal authority to make emergency decisions on your child’s behalf. A recent post by Michele Langlo on Autism After 16 illustrates this important practice here.

Not sure if your child needs legal guardianship or power of attorney? Here is a fact sheet with additional resources. And here’s a link to a recent webinar entitled “Understanding Guardianship and Alternatives for Decision Making Support” by the National Health Care Transition Center.

Picture identification

Your child will need current government-issued picture identification to obtain employment, to travel, and in case of medical and/or law enforcement emergencies.

If your child does not have a driver’s license, s/he can obtain a state-issued photo identification card. Click on your state here or contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more.

Next steps

There’s a lot of information to digest here.

Reserve some time in your calendar to review the linked resources. No doubt you’ll have further questions. Do yourself a favor and write them down.

Consider contacting a local advocacy organization (such as your local Arc or Center for Independent Living) to ask specific questions.

Nothing replaces the personalized guidance of a qualified attorney or financial planner who is experienced in the practice of special needs law and financial issues. However, the information in this post and guidance from local advocates can make you a more informed consumer.

By reading this post, you’ve already taken a big step toward planning for your child’s legal and financial needs.

Your turn

How do you and your child organize important legal and financial documents? Have any tips to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

If you found this post helpful – please share it with others. Thanks!

Photo credit – BLWPhotography on Flickr

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Mazzoni June 20, 2012 at 7:33 am

New resource: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has just released a “Care Binder” format with page templates that may help you document and organize important information for transition to adulthood. Legal, financial and medical components are included.
You can find it here:

Part of the Binder is a simple Checklist for legal/financial/medical planning steps:
You’ll find it here:


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