Guardianship For Those With Intellectual Disabilities
When we think of a guardianship, we often think of appointing someone to make decisions for others who cannot care for themselves—that is, for people who the court has found to be incapacitated, or incompetent. But in a guardianship for people with developmental disabilities, things are a bit different.
Developmental Disabilities and Guardianship
Developmental disabilities can pose a host of problems for a guardianship court. This is because many disabilities will make it impossible for people to take care of themselves in certain aspects of their lives, but they may remain fully competent in others.
Additionally, a disability may vary from person to person—one person may be generally incapable of doing anything, and another may still have the ability to manage some of their affairs, even though they are both afflicted with the same disability.
For the purposes of guardianship, developmental disabilities are usually considered to be cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, intellectual disabilities, or severe autism, although this isn’t a complete list of qualifying disabilities. The disability must have manifested before the age of 18.
What Are the Restrictions?
The court will look at each case individually, and determine what life activities the person is incapable of doing on his or her own. The Court doesn’t want to restrain the person’s freedoms and ability to manage their own life more than what is necessary.
Usually areas where guardians will be appointed may include:
- Banking, finances, and the general managing of financial affairs including paying bills
- Managing government benefits
- The ability to own or rent property, and maintain a household
- Making informed medical decisions for the person
- Managing property
- Entering into necessary contracts, such as leases
As you can see, the court is really looking to a person’s ability to make decisions, or handle parts of the person’s life—not to whether someone is actually, legally, incapacitated.
If a guardian is appointed for someone with an intellectual disability, the guardian has an obligation to tell the court if the person regains an ability to manage certain parts of the person’s life.
Parents of Disabled Children
This kind of guardianship is very helpful to parents of disabled children, when the children are about turn 18, and where the parents don’t want their child declared incompetent, but realize that the child may not be equipped to handle the full responsibilities that come with being declared a free adult.
Note that if you apply for this type of guardianship, your rights to manage the child’s life are limited by what powers the judge gives to you. You do not have the all-encompassing power to manage every part of the child’s life, the way you would if the child were a minor.
You will have to ask the court if you want guardianship rights to expand beyond what the court granted you when it made you guardian over the child. You cannot just assume that you can do more than what the court says, just because you are the parent.
Does someone in your family need a guardian? We can help. Contact the Tampa guardianship lawyers at the Gilbert Garcia Law Group, P.A.