As a parent of minor children (minors being children under the age of majority – 18 years old) you are used to making most, if not all decisions, on their behalf. However, when your child reaches the age of 18, the law views them as an adult. This means that you will no longer have the ability to control what and how decisions are made, or even receive relevant information about those decisions. For most parents, this is a rite of passage. They just have to sit back and watch their children leave the nest and begin their adult lives. But what if you have a child who is disabled? That child may need assistance with making important financial or medical decisions.
What will happen to them once they turn 18? Is there a way to step back in and continue to care for them if needed?
Have Your Child Sign a Financial and Medical Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney will authorize the agent (i.e. the person chosen by your child) to make financial decisions for them if they are unconscious, too ill to make or communicate the decisions themselves, or otherwise unavailable to do so. Without this important document, you could end up in court before a Judge in order to be granted the authority to handle your child’s financial affairs.
Medical power of attorney: This important document will allow your child to name a trusted agent who can make medical decisions on their behalf if they cannot make them for themselves. If your child is able to communicate and make their own medical decisions, they are allowed to do so; however, once you’re child is unable to communicate then the person is selected as the healthcare surrogate is required, to the greatest extent possible, to make the decisions your child would have made had they been able to communicate those wishes.
One important requirement for both of these documents is capacity – your child must have the mental capacity to execute these documents. The specific requirements for determining capacity varies from state to state. Yet, it’s important to note that your child’s inability to physically sign the documents does not automatically disqualify them from being able to put the documents into place.
What If Your Child Cannot Execute the Necessary Documents?
If your child does not have the mental capacity to execute a financial or medical power of attorney but important decisions needs to be made on their behalf, then the court will have to get involved. This process is known as a guardianship or conservatorship and can be a very lengthy, costly, and public process.
Through the court proceedings to establish guardianship and conservatorship, you will need to request that the court grant you the authority to make decisions on your child’s behalf. Generally, the guardian (sometimes referred to as guardian of the person or conservator of the person) is an individual who is authorized to make general life decisions on the child’s behalf. These decisions may include things such as where the child will live or what type of medical treatment they will receive. The conservator (sometimes referred to as guardian of the estate, guardian of the property, or conservator of the estate) is the person who is authorized to make financial decisions on behalf of the child.
Contact Us Today
If you have a disabled child and they are approaching their 18th birthday, now is the time to start planning for their future. We are here to assist you and your family to take the steps necessary to ensure that your family is well taken care of.
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