Once your child turns 18, they are now considered a legal adult. Without the ability to sign medical consent forms, etc., this may bring new challenges for parents of children with disabilities and special needs. If your child cannot make their own decisions, especially regarding medical decisions, it is important to know your options to keep them safe and protected.

Obtaining Limited or Full Guardianship

If you are concerned about your child’s ability to make their own financial and legal decisions, obtaining guardianship may be the best option. There are different levels of guardianship; however, depending on your child’s unique situation, they may not require full or even limited guardianship.

Limited guardianship is an option if your child can make reasoned decisions but needs assistance with specific matters. Full guardianship is required and often recommended if your child needs round-the-clock care.

It’s important to note that a court must appoint a guardian with “clear and convincing evidence” that a guardian is necessary. Under Arizona lawThe Department of Economic Services states, “a person with a developmental disability is presumed legally competent in guardianship proceedings until the court makes a determination to the contrary.”

Obtaining guardianship can be time-consuming and costly, so if your child can make their own decisions, you may want to consider a Durable Power of Attorney, a Special Needs Trust, or alternative tools.

Understand Your Options

As a minor, your child may receive Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on your income. After 18, the Social Security Administration (SSA) only looks at the adult’s income to determine eligibility for SSI benefits. ⁠⁠

This often means many people with disabilities who didn’t qualify as a minor may qualify now since only their income is considered.

A special needs trust can continue qualifying your child for Medicaid and Social Security benefits as an adult.

If your child is approaching 18 years old, it is important to begin planning your role as their guardian once they are an adult. Stuart & Blackwell can give you a sense of comfort and understanding in this process so you have the right tools to determine what is best for your child’s future.