Guardianships for Special Needs Teenagers

by | Jun 26, 2014 | Guardianships | 0 comments

As a parent of a special needs teenager, you may be worried about what may happen when your child turns 18.  Up until that important birthday, parents have complete authority over their child’s finances and can participate in health care decisions.  After age 18, however, a child is transformed into an “adult” under the law and a parent can no longer exercise control over a child’s finances or property.

For parents of a special needs teenager, the 18th birthday may be a bit scary.  For example, if your child has Autism he or she may be fully capable of handling their own money, but the child may also be very trusting of strangers and may be susceptible to undue influence.  In Indiana, a parent may file a petition for guardianship over their special needs child.  A guardianship allows the parent to continue to exercise care and control over the teenager’s finances, property, and to participate in health care decisions even after the child turns 18.

Obtaining a guardianship involves the following steps:

  1. Asking your child’s physician for a Physician’s Report.  
  2. File a petition with the probate court.
  3. Attend a hearing.
  4. Reasonably and responsibility manage your child’s finances.
  5. Periodically report to the Court.

A physician’s report tells the Court your child’s diagnosis and why a guardianship is necessary to protect the child.  The petition attaches the physician’s report and asks the Court to appoint one or two individuals, usually the parents, as the child’s guardian.  At the hearing, the child and potential guardians will be asked to testify. This process is informal and friendly.  If the petition is granted, then the guardians will receive letters of guardianship and will take an oath.  The guardian then has the power to maintain and care for the child’s finances and property.  The guardian is required to file an inventory of the protected person’s assets within ninety days and is required to submit an accounting within one year, and then two years thereafter.  

The guardianship can be permanent or temporary.  For example, if your child has developmental delays and requires a few years to mature enough to handle his or her own finances, the guardianship can be terminated.  The guardianship can also last indefinitely if the child will need a guardian for his or her lifetime.

If you have questions about obtaining a guardianship over your special needs teen or about guardianships in general, contact Ken or Sara

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