In Virginia, reaching 18 marks the legal transition from minor to adult, which gives young individuals complete control over personal, financial and medical decisions. For parents of children who have special needs, this milestone can present significant challenges.
The nature of some disabilities may render young adults incapable of making informed decisions for themselves, so continued parental involvement to ensure their well-being and security may be important for some families. This is when guardianship can become a consequential resource.
Guardianship is a legal status that occurs when a court grants one person or entity the right to make decisions for another—their ward. For special needs adults, this often covers areas where they are unable to effectively manage their affairs due to intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities or other medical conditions. The reasons for seeking guardianship are multifaceted, focusing primarily on ensuring the adult child’s health and safety, managing their finances and providing overall care and support.
One of the primary reasons for obtaining guardianship is to retain the ability to make medical decisions. Without guardianship, parents may find themselves legally barred from consulting with doctors, accessing medical records or making decisions about treatment options for their adult child. This can be particularly problematic in emergencies where quick decisions are necessary. Guardianship ensures parents can continue advocating for their child’s medical needs.
Another critical aspect of guardianship involves managing the adult child’s finances. This includes overseeing bank accounts, making investment decisions and handling any benefits or income the adult child may receive, such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
For special needs adults who may be susceptible to exploitation or can’t manage money effectively, guardianship protects their financial resources. It ensures their funds are used appropriately for their care and support, safeguarding against potential financial abuse or mismanagement.
Obtaining guardianship in Virginia involves a legal process that requires petitioning a court, providing evidence of the adult child’s incapacity and demonstrating that guardianship is in their best interest. Seeking legal guidance to assist with this complex matter is often a good idea so parents can continue to effectively care for their special needs child, even once the child is an adult.