As a majority of Michigan children begin school this week, there are a few things parents can put in place now that will help their children and themselves address an unexpected emergency situation if it should arise.
Naming a short-term guardian for your children
Filling out the emergency contact card the school requires is simply not enough, particularly if something happens to you. You, as the parent, are likely the named emergency contact person for the school, but if you are not available by reason of death, incapacity or otherwise, your child could be relinquished to the care of social services until the time guardianship is sorted out. Parents need to seriously consider naming someone as short-term guardian for their children so that confusion and legal hurdles are kept to a minimum during those panicked hours after an accident or illness that may leave the parents in a position of not being able to care for their children.
Several weeks ago, I shared a poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley entitled, “Welcome to Holland.” (click here to read the “Holland” Reflections blog post) The poem reflects Kingsley’s experience of raising a child with a disability to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it and in some small way imagine how it would feel.
A recent experience
Based on the overwhelming response to my previous post and the poem, I thought it would be appropriate to share a recent experience I had with my son, Casey, who is autistic. Casey recently spent several days with me at our Suttons Bay home after the Fourth of July weekend. As often happens during the summer months, when balancing two separate homes and office locations in Farmington and Suttons Bay, my wife had returned downstate with the other two boys after the holiday for their summer job and sports camp commitments. This left Casey and me on our own. Although the summer months result in a lot of activity at my firm’s Suttons Bay office, including client meetings and work to do, Casey and I were able to take some time off together.
Casey’s “list of things to do”
One of the items that is consistently on Casey’s “list of things to do” when we are together up north is to take a day and go kayaking on one of the local rivers or lakes. One Saturday morning, we packed our provisions for the day and headed over to the Putt and Paddle at the The River in Glen Arbor, Michigan (www.theriverglenarbor.com) and met Mike, the owner, to outfit ourselves with a kayak for the day’s trip. We chose a trip down the Crystal River and Mike and his crew took good care of us in driving us to the “drop spot” for a several-hour journey down the river.
We were doubly blessed in January, 1995 with twin boys. Both weighed in at 40 pounds. One was blond and one was dark-haired. There it was – our family complete – three boys under 2 1/2 years of age. Do you remember the poem, what are little boys made of? “Snails, tails and puppy dog tails.” Our lives were busy with diapers, bottles, and watching in amazement how our world went from one to three. When our oldest son asked the very next week, after they were home from the hospital, “When can they go back?” I looked at him blurried from little sleep and said lovingly, “No, sweetheart, they are here to stay.”
I knew something was not right about the dark-haired precious little boy we named Casey, after a great uncle. When the twins were developing, the devastating news at 3 1/2 years of age – autism. What is this? Our precious preschooler – this could not be. So, the doctor visits began, and school therapists, along with out-of-pocket expenses.
Normally, our weekly emails provide information on various legal issues to assist our clients, contacts and other subscribers in their personal and business affairs. Today’s “special edition” is somewhat different. Hopefully the following information will make you pause, reflect on life a moment and simply make your day a little brighter. My wife and I have been blessed with three great sons, one of whom is challenged with autism. While not all of us have the challenge of raising a child with special needs, we all experience disappointments and failed expectations in our lives, careers and relationships. While the following poem focuses on the experience of raising the child with a disability, there are many lessons that we can all learn from the message of the author.
Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley
I’m pleased to announce that one of Michigan’s premier business journals, DBUSINESS, recently announced its 2010 “Top Lawyers” in metropolitan Detroit – and three of the principals with Wright Penning & Beamer made the list.
DBUSINESS compiles its list as a resource and reference guide for its readers. Selection criteria include: Read the rest of this entry »
A few weeks ago I posted a blog about my oldest son, Tucker, and his experiences in a high school hockey tournament and about how through perseverance, commitment and hard work he achieved success and assisted his team in winning a tournament semi-final game.
I also quoted various statements by Dr. Alan Zimmerman that appeared in his weekly newsletter entitled “Tuesday Tip” on success. Dr. Zimmerman commented that one must observe four key elements in order to achieve success which are to “toil awhile; to endure awhile; to believe always and to never turn back”.
According to a 2007 census bureau survey, some 6.2% of children ages 5 – 15, a total of 2.8 million children, have disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are living longer than ever. Many disabled children will outlive their parents who support them. The Wall Street Journal published an article on October 9, 2008 titled “An Estate Plan Built for Special Needs”. The piece emphasized the need to make sure that relatives’ estate plans are coordinated. The article pointed out that often times, grandparents and parents of disabled children do not coordinate their plans which can result in a disqualification of the disabled child for certain medical and other supplemental government benefits. In addition, unless a qualified trustee or guardian and conservator are appointed in a parents’ estate plan for their disabled child, assets can be squandered by unscrupulous individuals in charge of these assets. If you have or know of anyone with a special needs child, please do not hesitate to refer them to us for a consultation and review.
Dan A. Penning
It is estimated that one in five families have a “special needs” member.
Parents with a special needs child worry most about what will happen to that child when they are no longer able to care for him or her. If the family is fortunate enough to own a business, planning for the child’s life after the parent’s death can become complicated.
Know Your Business
Suttons Bay – August 2008
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