When a child with special needs is a minor, parents make decisions about healthcare, school and other legal decisions on their behalf. When a child turns 18, guardianship may be appropriate so that parents can continue to make decisions for an adult child with special needs, who may otherwise struggle without needed support.
If before age 18, a parent anticipates that a child will need a guardian, they are encouraged to begin thinking about the guardianship process, working with a family law attorney to ensure a smooth transition. The guardian will be able to make decisions for an adult who may impaired by mental and/or physical illness or disability, who is disabled by chronic use of drugs or alcohol, has a developmental disability, or other causes if the adult person cannot manage themselves or his or her affairs.
Least Restrictive Arrangement
Of course, the courts strive for the least restrictive arrangement to ensure that the guardianship does not take away people’s rights. They may not be able to make all decisions, but can make some so it is important to take a measured approach. It may be a guardianship over a person and property or just a guardianship over one, the person or the property. Guardianship over a person might include decisions over whether a person should drive or get married as examples, while a guardianship over property might include making decisions regarding finances on the person’s behalf.
The Guardianship Process
Generally speaking, to initiate a guardianship of an adult child with special needs, typically a doctor’s certification regarding the child’s condition, whether the child is expected to improve, and whether the child can be able to manage him or herself at some point is included. If there is an IEP in place, a court will look at that too. The soon-to-be-adult child will be represented by an independent attorney, who will interview the child, parents, and other parties, all of whom will typically meet in a closed hearing to make a determination.
Responsibilities of the Guardian
Once a guardianship is established, the guardian must meet certain requirements which may include taking an initial inventory of assets of the person subject to the guardianship and filing annual reports regarding their well-being. If the person subject the guardianship has assets, sometimes an accounting is filed each year detailing disbursements, income, and other pertinent information for the protection of the person subject to the guardianship. In an adult child-parent context, the courts try to make it less burdensome on the parents, requiring only easy accounting, and making sure the person subject to the guardianship has regular checkups with a doctor and their life is going well. Every situation is unique, so it is important to work with an experienced guardianship attorney who can answer your questions.
Our Wisconsin guardianship attorneys will thoroughly review your particular situation and provide you with answers to your questions. We offer free consultations – call Probst Law Offices at (414) 210-3135 or an send us an email and we will promptly respond.