Guardianship of Special Needs Child Turning 18

In Georgia a parent is deemed to be the legal guardian of his or her child until the child turns 18.  As a child with cognitive disabilities nears his or her 18th birthday, parents often wonder if they can maintain the same legal relationship with their special needs child when that child becomes an adult.

Although a parent’s relationship with an adult-child with special needs may be very similar to that of a parent and minor child because of the amount of dependence the special needs child has on his or her mom and dad, the legal relationship between parent and child no longer exists when that child turns 18.  Mom or Dad will no longer have legal authority to make decisions or participate in all areas of their child’s life without an order from the court

For a parent to continue to assist their adult-child with healthcare decisions, it may be necessary for that parent to establish a guardianship.  For the parent to manage the finances of the adult child, it may be necessary for that parent to establish a conservatorship.

In Georgia, a parent may petition a court for guardianship of a child within six (6) months of the child’s 18th birthday to ensure a seamless transition into adulthood.

In addition, parents may need to review their estate plans now that the special needs child is an adult because inheritance, if not planned for properly, can have a significant and unwanted impact on the assistance programs available to a special needs adult.

Alford & Burkhart can help the parents of special needs children determine what they will need legally to ensure that their help and assistance can continue when their special needs child is an adult.