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Guardianship Is Not the Only Option When Your Child with Special Needs Turns 18

Published July 23, 2010

Many parents think that when their child with special needs turns 18, a guardianship will immediately need to be established. While a guardianship is necessary for some children with special needs, not everyone is a candidate.

The young men and women who do not require guardianships may still need and want their parents or other family members to be involved in their care. They may need their loved ones to help them with banking. They may also want families to have the opportunity to get information from their doctors in the event of a hospitalization or other emergency. In order for loved ones to assist the individual after the age of  18, he/she will need to sign legal documents giving another person permission to obtain information or take action on his/her behalf.

A health care proxy will allow the appointed parent or other relative to make health care decisions in the event that the individual with special needs is unable to personally make those decisions.  A signed HIPAA release will allow the appointed person to obtain medical information on the individual’s behalf and to talk to health insurance companies about claims or other issues. Finally, a signed durable power of attorney will allow the designated party to assist the individual with property and finances.

There are many cases where an individual with special needs will need a guardianship, but if your adult child has the legal capacity to understand and sign advance directives, having such legal documents in place will enable him/her to receive assistance with health and financial matters while maintaining a degree of independence.

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