Most people become legally independent when they reach the age of 18. Even if they are still enrolled in high school, these new adults have a host of rights and responsibilities that their peers who haven’t yet reached 18 do not. Registering to vote, enrolling in the selective service, being able to secure full-time work and many other new rights and abilities mark the transition from being a teenager to being a legal adult. Being able to move out and run your own life are now also legal possibilities.

Unfortunately, not everyone who reaches the age of 18 is at a point where they have the ability to provide for themselves and make adult decisions on their own behalf. When you have a child or possibly a younger sibling with special needs who is about to turn 18, you may need to reflect on whether seeking a guardianship might benefit them when they become adults.

What does guardianship mean for you and your loved one?

Seeking guardianship over someone who is legally an adult involves demonstrating to the courts that they have mental or physical impairments that prevent them from providing their own care and handling their own affairs as other adults could.

A guardianship doesn’t mean that the person protected by a guardian has to live with the guardian. Guardians can give the loved one under their care significant levels of independence. However, the guardian will be the one who enters into contracts, manages financial circumstances and even makes medical decisions on behalf of their loved one with special needs.

While a guardianship may seem hostile or insulting, it is actually protective and beneficial. Those under the care of a guardianship have someone that they can rely on to manage things for them, and the person who becomes a guardian has the peace of mind that comes from knowing their loved one has someone watching out for them. An attorney can provide more information on guardianships and help you determine if this is the right course of action for your loved one.