Guardianship is a legal arrangement where an adult is assigned to make decisions for an individual with diminished mental or physical capacity. A guardian makes decisions regarding the individual’s personal life, living situation, finances, medical needs, and educational needs. Guardianship differs from conservatorship because it allows a guardian to make decisions for another person in many areas of that person’s life. A conservator is limited to making decisions about another person’s finances.
Guardians are assigned to individuals age 18 or older with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, or other conditions that make the individual unable to legally make his or her own decisions regarding many areas of life.
The process for obtaining guardianship can be long and tedious. Families usually only pursue guardianship when the family feels there is no other way to ensure the disabled individual’s needs are met. Often, parents and family members are able to remain involved in the adult individual’s life to an extent where the family can provide support without being the individual’s legal guardian. If this does not appear to be an option, begin the process for obtaining guardianship by contacting a lawyer who specializes in disability law and guardianship, or your county social services office. Some counties help families through the process of obtaining guardianship, and some do not assist as much.
“My daughter and I look at guardianship as an adult partnership between her and myself. It does not restrict her ability to live the life she wants and it protects her against those who may take advantage of her vulnerabilities.”
“Try to start the guardianship process when your child turns 17 by reaching out to your child’s county disability worker and discussing what the steps will be. He or she can help you along through the process and be an advocate for you in court.”