Have Your Child Sign a Financial and/or Medical Power of Attorney 

A financial power of attorney allows someone chosen by your child to make important financial decisions on their behalf in case they become unconscious, too ill to make decisions, or are otherwise unavailable to do so. This legal document is crucial because without it, you may have to go to court to get the authority to manage your child’s finances. However, it’s important to note that even if your child authorizes you to act on their behalf, they can still make their own financial decisions as long as they can do so. 

A medical power of attorney enables your child to choose a trusted “agent” who can make medical decisions on their behalf in case they are unable to make those decisions for themselves or communicate their wishes to healthcare providers. The agent must make decisions that align with your child’s preferences to the best extent possible. Your child can continue to make and communicate their own medical decisions as long as they are physically and mentally capable. Your intervention would only be necessary if your child becomes unable to make or articulate their preferences. 

Your child must have the mental capacity to execute legal documents that help you provide for them after they turn 18. Note that physical inability to sign the documents does not disqualify your child from executing them. 

It is important to prepare legal documents for your child if they have a degenerative condition. Even if your child is capable of making decisions on their own at present, these documents will be helpful for them in the future when they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Your child will have the right to make their own decisions until they become incapable of doing so. Therefore, it is essential to prepare these documents before it’s too late. 

If Your Child Cannot Execute the Necessary Documents 

If your child lacks the mental capacity to sign a financial or medical power of attorney, and if decisions need to be made on their behalf, then the court will have to step in. Unfortunately, this can be a lengthy, expensive, and public legal process. 

In order to establish guardianship through court proceedings, you will need to request the court to grant you the authority to make decisions on behalf of your child. Generally, the person appointed as guardian of the person is authorized to make general life decisions on behalf of your child. This may include decisions such as where your child lives and what kind of medical treatment they will receive. Guardian of the estate is the person authorized to make financial decisions on behalf of your child. 

As opposed to an agent under a financial or medical power of attorney, if you are appointed as a guardian, you have authority to make all of the decisions, and your child ceases to be able to make any decisions for themselves. Sometimes, this may be too far-reaching an approach. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may have the option to seek a limited guardianship role. This means you can only make decisions that are specified by a court order and your child retains the right to make their own decisions for all other matters. The overall objective of the court is to promote independence. 

If you have a child with disabilities who is about to turn 18, it is essential to start planning for their future. We are here to support you and your child in taking the necessary steps to ensure that they receive the same level of care as adults as they did when they were children.