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My Disabled Child is Turning 18. Do I Need a Guardianship?

Many times parents have contacted our firm to talk about a guardianship or conservatorship for their disabled child. Many times they don’t know if or why they might need to do something, but a friend or school district official has told them that something needs to be done. Here are some basic thoughts:

Once an individual turns 18 — in the eyes of the law — they are deemed to be a competent adult, free to make any decisions, good or bad. They retain this right until they die or until a court enters an order that says that they are not competent.

In the case where a child with a disability is turning 18, many times they are completely unable to make their own decisions and would be quite vulnerable to outside influences. For instance, this child is now free to get a credit card and enter into any type of contract. Parents can often find themselves outside in a waiting room — unable to be involved in medical decisions or even have access to medical information. Clearly, this can be problematic.

It is important to understand the difference between a guardianship and a conservatorship. A guardianship is when a person is nominated to be in charge of the incompetent individual’s physical well being. This includes making medical decisions and ensuring that the individual has access to the basic necessities of food and shelter. The conservator is in charge of any financial assets that the individual has in their name. This would include bill paying, managing bank and brokerage account assets, and making financial decisions on that individual‘s behalf. The guardian and conservator are often the same person, but they don’t have to be the same person.

If your disabled child is turning 18, the elder law attorneys at The Elder Law Firm PC can help you to establish a guardianship. Your child may not have any assets in their own name, but we will often appoint a conservator anyway so that, if your son or daughter comes into property later in life, that step is already handled.

Michigan Elder Law Attorneys at The Elder Law Firm PC provide assistance in protecting your assets and protecting your family through trusts, wills, Medicaid and estate planning. Contact us by calling 616.840.3754 or by requesting a free consultation online here.