Choosing to serve as someone’s guardian is a huge responsibility. A guardian for an adult with special needs is generally tasked with overseeing that individual’s physical well-being, medical care, and housing.
In the majority of cases, it’s a parent (or parents) who will apply to become their adult child’s legal guardian when he or she turns 18. But even parents will ask us if they are able to appoint a “co-guardian,” or someone else who can help with their responsibilities and duties. Most commonly, we are asked by parents of individuals with special needs if they can appoint one of their other adult children, a stepparent, a sibling, a grandparent, or other relative to serve as co-guardian who will have the same legal rights.
Legally speaking, having a co-guardian is absolutely possible, and it’s something we often encourage to help lighten the load. However, a parent cannot simply appoint this person him or herself. Instead, the candidate will need to go through a formal legal process with the Virginia courts where they will petition to serve as a co-guardian. During this process, the court will need to verify that the person is indeed capable of serving in this capacity and from there, a judge will ultimately approve or deny the request.
When we meet with families to start the process of filing for guardianship for a young adult with special needs, we will typically ask up front if they want someone else to serve in a co-guardian role. In general, it’s easier and less expensive to take care of everything all at one time. The bottom line is that every family is different and it’s important to work with an attorney who will help you create an individualized plan that actually works long term.
Here at the Law Firm of Sheri R. Abrams, we want parents and caregivers to feel as secure and supported in their roles as possible, as that ultimately results in the best care for the person with special needs. If you have questions about how to create a Special Needs Plan that takes into account the unique dynamics or challenges in your family, please feel free to contact us at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.