Guardianship and Declaration of Incapacitation
Age 17 ½
Age 18 is considered the "age of majority" in most states. It is assumed that an individual will be able to make their own decisions regarding their health, their finances and their future. They should be able to advocate for themselves, take care of bills and a bank account, decide where they will continue their educations and begin looking for ways to improve their independence. Many children this age are beginning to make plans to move away from home. Or so we hope.
Once your child reaches the age of majority (age 18 in most states) you will have no control over their financial, educational, or health related decisions your child may make. They become a legally competent adult in the eyes of the law with all the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. Regardless of the individual's level of disabling condition or functional abilities, that person is considered a legally competent adult until proven otherwise by a court of law. If your child's decision-making capacity is severely affected or they are unable to communicate, based on a chronic or severe condition, it may be necessary for them to have a guardian appointed for them.
It is important to begin this process BEFORE your child turns 18. It is much more difficult to obtain a Guardianship AFTER your child turns 18!
It is also recommended at this time to consider an alternate guardian should the main guardian (or guardians) become incapacitated themselves. This process can take a great deal of time and consideration for those being considered as a "back up" guardian. It is most important that the backup guardian understands the individual's needs and wants as well as the full responsibilities guardianship may entail. They must be willing to take full responsibility for your child in the event something happens to you. This process will take some time.
** NOTE: Each situation is different. However. Linda and her husband found that it was important for them to name a third family member as a "backup guardian" to act in their stead during absences (Military or otherwise). This individual is a trusted family member who is in close contact with Madison at all times. In this case it is an Aunt. She is fully aware of the responsibilities and detail involved in Madison's daily care. It is also absolutely essential that that same individual be listed by the courts as guardian and listed on the court order itself. Otherwise they will NOT be able to represent Madison in medical emergencies or assist with medical record or billing questions while the main guardians, currently her parents, are away. This also includes financial matters, school issues etc. Make sure your backup guardian has an original copy of the court order in their possession!
*Military Members: Be aware the Age of Majority for most states is age 18. If you reside in a state where the Age of Majority is 21, have NOT obtained legal documentation and are then transferred to a state with a younger legal Age of Majority you will be behind the proverbial eight ball, legally. You will be unable to assist your child with any of their legal needs until AFTER you have completed the court process. This can take several months, creating a real financial, educational and medical mess for families to deal with. We recommend families obtain Guardianship and a Declaration of Incapacitation at age 18 to prevent any difficulties created by PCS moves to other states.