Parents' Deaths Should Not Mean End of Life for Disabled Children

Parents can easily become overwhelmed with the day to day care of a child with special needs, and even more overwhelmed at trying to figure out how to care for that child long after the death of the parent, leading to sometimes tragic results. It is possible for parents to take real steps that will make a tremendous difference in their child's future life.

​​A South Carolina woman was arrested last week on charges of attempting to kill herself and her adult daughter with Downs Syndrome.  Police responded to their home after receiving a call from a concerned person. According to the police report, when the officer asked [the woman] about the situation, she told him “she was worried that when she died that no one would be able to take care of her daughter.”

It’s a fear shared by nearly every parent of a child with special needs.  “It may be true that no one will ever love a child the way a mother does, but it is absolutely not true that no one else will ever love and care for that child,” says Austin special needs attorney Pamela Parker.  “Parents tend to be overwhelmed with the day to day needs of their children and put off planning, or don’t realize what planning needs to be done.  There are some simple steps to take that will bring more people into their child’s life and make the most of whatever money is available.” 

"It may be true that no one will ever love a child the way a mother does, but it is absolutely not true that no one else will ever love and care for that child,"

Pamela Parker, Attorney

So what can parents do to prepare for life after their own death? Parker recommends the following:

1.       Build a community of caregivers.  Cultivate and stay in communication with anyone who shows an interest in your child.  In addition to formal roles like guardian or trustee, other people can serve as eyes and ears for programs, activities, problems with living situations or caregivers, and of course, as people who visit your child.  Encourage people to follow their own strengths and interests in participating in your child’s life, and to communicate with the formal caregivers.

2.       Maximize financial supports.  Social security benefits should be used and additional money in the form of inheritance, life insurance, or gifts from family members can be put in a special needs trust to supplement the resources from government benefits.

3.       Create transition tools to ease the transition from one caregiver to another.  Either write down or record on audio or video everything you know about your child – likes, dislikes, rituals, your priorities, and of course medical and practical information. 

4.       Prepare the legal documents that will ensure your plan is implemented as you intend.  Formal guardianship papers or alternative support documents are a must, as is a will and special needs trust. 

“I can’t stress enough how important this planning is to the future care of your child.  And a great side benefit is that once it’s done, the parents feel so much relief at knowing that whatever tomorrow brings, there is a system in place to support their child with all the loving care that they deserve,” notes Parker.

For more information on Austin special needs attorney Pamela Parker, visit  For more information on stories about parents killing disabled children, see sampling of stories at these links: South Carolina last week  August of 2014 in Chicago – devoted parents in 80’s, two severely disabled children in 50’s

About Law Office of Pamela Parker

Law Firm focusing on the needs of families with children with special needs.

Law Office of Pamela Parker
PO Box 80205
Austin, Texas