Are you really the guardian for your disabled adult child - or are you assuming you are?

Guardianship is a technical term under Alabama law that authorizes a person to make decisions about the personal care of another who is unable to do so because of age or health.

Before a guardian will be appointed, an Alabama probate judge will be asked to analyze the individual’s age, medical condition and other circumstances. In order to preserve the individual’s due process rights, the judge appoints third parties including a medical professional, to investigate the allegations being made by those requesting the guardianship. A hearing is held, and based upon the evidence presented, the judge agrees a guardian is needed and makes such an appointment, or declines to do so. If a guardian is appointed, the guardian is thereafter charged with making decisions that benefit the individual in terms of where the individual lives and the medical care he or she receives.

The parent of a child under the age of nineteen years is recognized as the child’s natural guardian. However, anyone age nineteen or older in Alabama is presumed to be a competent adult, able to make decisions about his or her health care and financial affairs, unless a court finds to the contrary.

This can put a particular burden on parents of disabled children. The parents will likely care for such children for the rest of their lives, either at home or in special residential facilities. Yet many of them are not aware that if the child needs medical care, the child over age 19 must be consulted and must give his or her consent. For example, a 21-year-old who needs something as routine as having wisdom teeth pulled can refuse to have it done.

Fortunately there is a special provision in the law to accommodate such situations. The legislature a few years ago created a way for parents of disabled adult children to be appointed without the need for a full-blown hearing. This saves money, time and helps preserves the privacy of those involved.

We have assisted many parents successfully in this process and will be glad to help if you are interested. If you would like to discuss this, contact Judy Shepura.

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