The question of Guardianship usually occurs around the 18th birthday, due to the fact that in most states the legal age of majority is 18. This means that an individual who attains the age of 18 no longer needs parental consent. This lack of parental consent equates to a lack of parental protection, as well.
Guardianship is necessary for an individual who does not understand the impact of their decisions, and may never have that ability. The two most common areas to consider are Health Care decisions and Money decisions. The questions to ask are:
- Can my child manage their money?
- Can my child understand the impact of health care decisions?
- Can my child manage their own IEP? (If the parent is not the guardian, then at 18 years old the school system does not have to invite you to your child’s IEP meeting)
- Do you need to continue to protect your child because of their naiveté?
If your answers to the first three questions are NO, and your answer to the last question is YES, then Guardianship may be the right decision for your child
- Guardianship can come in a number of varieties:
- Guardian of the Person – making the day-to-day decisions
- Guardianship of the Estate – making the money decisions
- General Guardianship – combines Guardian of the Person and Guardian of the Estate
- Limited Guardianship – only in certain areas of your child’s life will you be their Guardian. This arrangement allows your child to keep some of their rights (i.e. driving privileges).
The Guardianship Process begins by visiting your local clerk of courts. It is with the clerk of courts that you will complete the application and assemble the proper paperwork in order for a Guardianship hearing to be scheduled. You should begin this process 5-6 months before your child reaches the age of 18.
For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™- L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™. This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family: parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs and their siblings.
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This article was featured in Issue 32 – Striving for Independence