Parents of children with special needs are well versed in making decisions for the child when it comes to their healthcare. However, when the child turns 18 years old, this process becomes more difficult. Parents will soon realize that they cannot make medical decisions for their child as they once used to. Medical professionals, even those who have been treating the child for years, will rightfully ask for (by law) proof that the parent has the directive or authority to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf.
Guardianships Were Made for This Situation
If you have stumbled upon this situation, the time has come to set up a guardianship for your child with special needs. Guardianships grant a court-appointed person the authority to make decisions regarding a person’s day-to-day needs, including medical decisions. This allows you, the parent, to continue to care for your child and make necessary decisions they are not always capable of making.
Determining if a Guardianship is Necessary
Not all adults with special needs are required to have a person make medical care decisions on their behalf. Some do not require it at all. When deciding whether to set up a guardianship for your 18-year-old, consider the following:
- Their cognitive abilities and whether they can understand the consequences of their actions
- Whether they can communicate unassisted
- Whether they can feed, bathe, and clothe themselves
- If they are employed
- If they need to be in an assisted living home
- Your income
- Your child’s income and expenses
How To Set Up a Guardianship
The first stop should be getting an attorney with experience in estate planning or family law. They will be able to help you through the process of setting up a guardianship for your child. The next stop will be the courthouse. Since guardianships are overseen by the courts, they will be heavily involved in approving the setup as well as the person who is selected to act as the child’s guardian.
What About My Child’s Finances?
As a guardian, you will generally not have control over your child’s financial decisions. However, as a guardian, you can petition the court to appoint a conservator (which can be you or someone else). Conservatorships operate similarly to guardianships, but instead of controlling medical and other life decisions, they instead can make financial decisions that include:
- Managing their estate
- Paying debts
- Collecting debts owed to the estate
- Managing investments
Getting a Surety Bond
In most cases, the court will require the person acting as a guardian to obtain a guardianship surety bond. This bond provides “insurance” and additional protection should the guardian fail to fulfill their duties. Since they are required by the courts, you will have to get one before you can be appointed to the guardian position. Thankfully, you and your attorney can contact a surety bond agency to make the process simple and easy. Surety can be complex, but the right agent can get you through the process with ease.
Disclaimer: this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal counsel, please contact an attorney directly.