If you are caring for a loved one with disabilities who is currently under the age of 18, the idea of
them reaching adulthood may seem overwhelming. As their loved one, you likely want to continue being able to care for them and look after them, yet certain laws may make that seem difficult.
The good news is, there are programs in place that are designed specifically with special needs adults in mind, that allow parents, loved ones and caregivers to continue to provide care even when that child turns 18. This is all through a process known as guardianship. Guardianship is a legal means of protecting any adult who cannot take care of themselves or act in their own best interest.
There are many parents who assume that they will be able to continue to act as their child’s legal guardian during their entire life. However, that isn’t the case. Even when a child does not have the capacity to make informed decisions, legally any child, even one with a disability is presumed competent unless otherwise determined. This determination is made after a competency proceeding, otherwise the parent will no longer legally be able to act as their child’s guardian.
There will be a hearing before a judge as part of this process and you will need to present evidence of the need for guardianship. You must also show that the proposed guardian, whether it is a parent, sibling or other loved one, is fit to be appointed and capable of handling these responsibilities and that no one of higher priority is available. For example, in some families, an older sibling or aunt may step in and act as a guardian if the disabled child’s parents are no longer available.
During the hearing, there will be two attorneys involved. One will represent the person asking the court to appoint a guardian and one representing the person being cared for. Witnesses such as the child’s doctor or friends and family may also be called to provide additional information.
Guardianship is a great way for parents to make certain they are protecting their child from those who may exploit them in the future and their inability to make informed decisions. In order to make sure that people aren’t abusing the system and that this legal protection is reserved only for those who truly need it, the process of appointing a guardian can be a bit complicated. The best way to make sure that you are following all of the appropriate steps is to work with a licensed attorney who specializes in this specific type of law.
Special needs planning can seem daunting. However, if you understand what guardianship is and how it works in today’s legal world, you can make sure that you are taking the steps necessary to keep your loved one safe and protected. The expert attorneys here at Hegwood Law Firm specialize in guardianship law and can help you through every step of the process, so your loved one can get the legal protection they need.
Making sure your special-needs loved one has an appointed guardian can guarantee their well-being long into adulthood so they can continue to live the happy, care-free, loving life that they deserve.