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Is Guardianship the Answer? Part I – Children with Disabilities Reaching Adult Age

Having a child is a joyful occasion. But when your child is born with a disability, along with joy comes concern for the future. The parents care for all of their child’s needs and wants. They make the decisions. They do the best they can. But what happens when their child is no longer a child?

Some may think that, upon reaching adult age, a guardianship is necessary. It may very well be. However, there are also possible alternatives.

For example, if the child that has come of age is disabled, yet competent, the individual may be able to appoint a Power of Attorney. Or if the individual has no assets other than monthly income from SSI or SSDI, it may be sufficient to request that the Social Security Administration appoint a Representative Payee. This Representative Payee will receive the monthly SSI or SSDI payment on their behalf and deposit it in a bank account designated for that sole purpose. The individual’s expenses can be paid from that account. A complete accounting of the expenses should be kept.

If neither of these options fit the circumstance, then guardianship may be considered. A Petition to Determine Incapacity and a Petition for Appointment of Guardian needs to be filed in the County where the individual lives. The Court will appoint an attorney to represent the individual during the process as well as an examining committee of three professionals who will examine the individual and submit a report of their findings as to competency. A hearing will be scheduled wherein a Judge will determine if there should be an order determining the individual be incompetent and if a guardian should be appointed. In the affirmative, the Judge will also determine who would be best suited as the guardian, which in most cases will be the parent, and how much authority the guardian should have depending on the needs of the individual.

These provisions help parents continue to care for their child’s needs and wants. They can continue to make the decisions. They can continue to do the best they can.

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