Fairfax guardianship lawyer, Sheri Abrams, reveals how parents should plan ahead to legally protect their child with special needs and/or disabilities as he or she approaches age 18.
As a parent of a disabled child, you understand that your child requires a different level of care than most. Since their level of care is different, the planning you should do for their future should be different as well.
One question I get asked often is whether a child with disabilities will require a guardianship when he or she turns 18. As with any child, your special needs child will be considered an adult at age 18. This means that you are no longer entitled to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf. If your child with disabilities needs you to continue to make these decisions, you will likely need to establish a guardianship.
To obtain a guardianship here in Fairfax County, you would have to petition the Circuit Court to be appointed as such. Make no mistake, this is a formal legal process that in most cases requires the assistance of an experience guardianship attorney in order to proceed.
However, depending on your child’s situation, there many be other options. If your child is able to live on their own, a full guardianship may not be necessary. In fact, a guardianship can be restrictive and may result in your child losing certain personal rights. If he or she is able to make most of their own decisions responsibly, you may consider less intrusive options. You could simply obtain a Health Care Power of Attorney and HIPPA release allowing you to access medical records and contact doctors. The Health Care Power of Attorney and HIPPA will allow you to access their medical information without the need of a court-ordered guardianship.
A Financial Power of Attorney is another option. While this does not give you the authority to make decisions about your child’s healthcare, it does allow for you to enter into contracts, handle their finances, and make general authoritative decisions on his or her behalf. Keep in mind, however, that your child must have the mental capacity to appoint you as power of attorney. If this is not possible for him or her, you will need to pursue a guardianship.
A qualified guardianship attorney can help you decide which option is best for you and your child and advise you through the process. We have helped numerous families in the Fairfax area ensure the future protection of their special needs children. We would love to help you, too. Call our office at (571) 328-5795 for a consultation.