How to Stay in Control of a Disabled Child’s Affairs When He or She Becomes an Adult

Apr 18, 2022

When a child with special needs turns 18, he or she becomes an adult in the eyes of the law. However, if the child’s disability prevents him or her from making adult decisions and being able to manage his or her affairs, the parents will need to petition the local court for legal guardianship over their now-adult child. Here is some important information you need to know if you decide to become your child’s adult guardian here in Minnesota.

Deciding if an Adult Guardianship is Necessary

Establishing guardianship of your adult child is a long process that can cost a lot of money. While becoming your child’s guardian will give you the legal authority you need to manage your now-adult child’s affairs into adulthood and beyond, there are some drawbacks that parents should be made aware of such as:

  • Your child will lose some degree of legal independence.
  • Your child will have no authority to make decisions about his or her personal life, property, or finances. 
  • You take on a larger burden of having to make those decisions for your adult child. 

Alternatives to Guardianship

Having a mental illness or intellectual disability does not automatically indicate that your child must have an adult guardian. If your adult child is high-functioning or has the capability of making his or her own decisions, then you may be able to forego filing for a formal guardianship by instead putting the following legal safeguards in place to help your child when necessary:

  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Directive
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Special Needs Trust

Determining Competency

Before you can legally gain guardianship over your adult child with disabilities, a court must first determine that your child is not capable of taking care of him or herself. To make this decision, a judge will likely ask for medical evidence from a treating physician that attests to the level of functioning, decision-making ability, prognosis, and diagnosis. Depending on the individual situation, other information may be requested as well. The standards are different for each state, so it is crucial that you talk to a special needs attorney in Minnesota about exactly what is required. 

The Powers and Duties of an Adult Guardian 

The powers and duties of an adult guardian will ultimately be decided by a judge who is in charge of the case and will normally be based on the physical and mental needs of the adult child in question. Most states require that guardians file reports on their actions on a regular basis to ensure the disabled person’s needs are truly being met and to determine if any modifications need to be made. 

If you need assistance in planning to care for your adult child with special needs, we can help you. Simply contact our Minnesota law firm at (763) 244-2949 to set up a consultation.