Parents have the legal right to make decisions for their children up until the age of 18. At that age, the law considers the child an adult and no longer subject to parental control. However, even adults might lose their ability to care for themselves due to severe injuries or illnesses. When this happens, parents may find it necessary to name themselves or another reliable adult as the child’s guardian.
What constitutes incapacity?
A person is not incapacitated just because they are elderly, have a mental illness or have a disability. The court requires a medical report from a licensed physician, psychologist or other professional assessing the ward’s condition before granting guardianship. If a person is unable to care for themselves or manage their property and finances without help, then the court may order guardianship.
What responsibilities does a guardian have?
Taking on the role of guardian or conservator often requires sacrificing personal time and energy. A guardian is in charge of handling the incapacitated adult’s personal matters, including making decisions regarding their care, education, safety and health. Meanwhile, a conservator oversees their estate and financial matters.
They can act on the ward’s behalf to sign legal papers, apply for loans and make purchases. The primary role of a guardian or conservator is to ensure the welfare of the ward and the ward’s property. In addition, the court may order them to report on the ward’s status on a regular basis.
Being a conservator or guardian carries heavy responsibilities that can test a person’s limit. Meanwhile, guardianship will take away a number of rights and privileges from the adult child.
Parents who wish to give their child some independence may want to explore other options, such as a trust, powers of attorney or advanced directives. Deciding on guardianship will change someone’s life. While it is the best option for some families, others might find that other legal arrangements are better for their situation. Talking to a lawyer might help give some direction.