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Take steps to legally protect your adult disabled child

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How do you protect an adult child with autism or another intellectual disability from the dangers of the world?

It isn’t easy.

Once your child passes his or her 18th birthday, the law no longer grants you the automatic right to go to doctors visits, make housing decisions, prevent him or her from being influenced by the wrong people or handle his or her finances. That can quickly leave your adult disabled child floundering in a rough world.

One of the options you have is to ask the court to give you legal guardianship over your adult disabled child. This will give you the right to make the important decisions in your child’s life as long as necessary.

However, there are several things that you need to consider before you ask the court for guardianship:

  1. Does your child’s doctor agree that guardianship is appropriate? Not every person with autism or an intellectual disability needs a full guardianship. Many concerns can be managed with less restrictive alternatives, like powers of attorney. Without a doctor’s approval, a guardianship petition will likely fail.
  2. Are you the right person to handle the guardianship? There are several reasons why parents may want to ask another family member to become their adult child’s guardian. If you are in poor health, of advanced age or don’t enjoy a close relationship with your adult disabled child, it might be better to ask another family member — like one of his or her siblings — to handle the task.
  3. Are you prepared for the paperwork? In general, the process to become a legal guardian can be time-consuming. However, it’s the yearly responsibilities of a guardian that can become overwhelming. You’ll have to file reports with the court and may even have to post a bond (against misuse of your adult child’s funds).

Guardianship is a complex process that generally requires the assistance of a family lawyer to get through the courts. If you’re unsure how to best protect your adult disabled child, consider exploring all your legal options before you decide how to proceed.

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