The Unique Role of Siblings

Brothers and sisters of those who have disabilities often have a mix of feelings about their family role, both in the present and the future. Though many siblings report feeling more empathetic, responsible and insightful as a result of their experience, they often also feel overwhelmed, resentful and conflicted.

We honor these brothers and sisters and the truly unique love and commitment they selflessly give to their parents and siblings. This month, we’re featuring a few of our clients and their stories. We appreciate you and all that you do! We hope the resources in this month’s newsletter helps you along your journey…

Siblings play a crucial role in the long-term care of their brother or sister, often becoming the next generation of caregivers.  Parents struggle with the anticipated burden this role could be for a sibling who has a career, a family of their own, or who may not live nearby.  When considering siblings as trustees of a special needs trust, parents should think about the complexity of trust administration tasks such as understanding and compliance of public benefits, knowledge of tax law, and management of investments.  Our Firm recommends that parents appoint a professional trustee to act alongside a sibling trustee to manage administrative and investment responsibility, along with government benefit management.  Other families decide to empower siblings or other family members as members of a Trust Advisory Committee, with the job of overseeing the activities of a professional trustee and offering their personal knowledge and interest in the beneficiary’s life.

There are several resources and support groups for siblings: 
  • Nationally, the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) organizes information, supports, and tools for siblings to assist them in advocating with their brothers and sisters and promoting issues that are important to families.  Specific resources for Young Siblings, Teen Siblings, Adult Siblings, and Parents and Family Members are available.
  • The Sibling Support Project (SSP) is a national program best known for helping communities start Sibshops, meet-ups for young brothers and sisters to gather, support, and have fun with other siblings.
  • Locally, the organization S.I.B.S. (Supporting Illinois Brothers & Sisters) connects siblings of people with disabilities in Illinois with resources, information, and networking opportunities to enhance the lives of the whole family.