Do I Need a Guardian or Conservator for My Special Needs Child?

Parents of special needs children often wonder if they should appoint a guardian to make important decisions on their children’s behalf. Before naming a guardian for your child, make sure there are no alternative solutions that may be less expensive and restrictive.

Not All Special Needs Children Need a Guardian

Remember, many special needs children overcome challenges and can make their own decisions by the time they become adults. This eliminates the need for a guardian. Some children with special needs may be able to make some, but not all, decisions by the time they turn 18. In such cases, limited guardianship may be more appropriate than full guardianship. You can also consider a general conservatorship in Sonoma County for your child.

Who Can Be Appointed as a Guardian?

Any person who is 18 or older can be appointed as a guardian of a minor child with special needs. If both parents of a special needs child do not live together and cannot mutually decide who should be appointed as the guardian, the proceedings can become contested. In such cases, a court can appoint both parents as co-guardians, or one parent as a guardian, or a third person to serve as a guardian.

Talk to Your Child’s Doctor

Ask your child’s doctor whether they believe the kid will have the legal capacity to sign a Power of Attorney and name a person who can help them manage their affairs when they turn 18. If your child’s doctor believes that their mental disability is a temporary obstacle and they will be able to use their mental faculties to choose an individual who can assist them with some issues once they turn 18, find an attorney who can draft the following documents with your child’s needs in mind.

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: Allows you to appoint an agent to help your special needs child make healthcare decisions. It is effective only during periods when the child cannot make their own decisions. The document gives the appointed person the right to access the child’s medical records and can eliminate the need for full guardianship.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney: You can use a durable power of attorney to name a person to make financial decisions on your child’s behalf. The appointed person is responsible for helping the child carry out financial transactions, apply for benefits, and make important decisions regarding their education.

It’s important that parents name their child’s guardian in their will, so their preference is known. Parents should also consider appointing a standby guardian. A standby guardian is given temporary authority to care for the child if their parents become mentally incapacitated and are unable to care for them.

Johnston & Associates is a reputable law firm in Sonoma County. Our attorneys use their specialized knowledge to tailor legal solutions to our clients’ specific needs. To learn more, call 707-545-6542.