In the eyes of the law, a child becomes an adult when he or she turns 18. However, if your child’s disability prevents him or her from making adult decisions and managing personal affairs, you may need to petition the local court for legal guardianship. Our Tampa special needs lawyers want to share some important information you’ll need if you decide to become your child’s adult guardian here in Florida.
Unfortunately, here in Florida and across the country, the adult guardianship process can be long, costly and involves some drawbacks. For starters, your child will lose their legal independence and will have no authority to make decisions regarding their finances, property, or personal life. Parents must realize the magnitude of this court order and that it will be up to them to shoulder the burden of any and all medical, financial, and personal decisions.
It’s also important to note that adult guardianships are not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Some young adults with mental or intellectual disabilities may not require formal adult guardianship if they are relatively high-functioning or independent. In these cases, an experienced special needs attorney can help the parents evaluate their satiation to determine if they can get away with utilizing legal safeguards such as a Financial Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Directive, HIPAA authorization, and a Special Needs Trust instead for a less intrusive way of helping their child manage the tasks of everyday life.
Parents must also keep in mind that before they can legally claim guardianship over their adult child, a court must determine the child’s level of competency and whether he or she is truly unable to make adult decisions. A judge will likely ask for medical evidence from a treating physician to attest to the level of functionality, and other information can be requested depending on the situation. Because this process can take some time, parents will need to start preparing for the guardianship process approximately 6-12 months prior to their child’s 18th birthday.
In the end, a judge will ultimately decide the powers and duties as an adult guardian based on the physical and mental needs of the adult child in question. There will likely be ongoing responsibilities for the chosen guardian as well, as most states require guardians to file action reports regularly to make sure the disabled person’s needs are met and to determine any necessary modifications. It’s important to stay in contact with your Tampa special needs lawyers who will help manage any legal or administrative requirements.
Do you need assistance in gaining a guardianship for your adult child with special needs? We can help. Just contact our Brandon estate planning and special needs planning law firm at (813) 438-8503 to set up a consultation.