At times a person with a disability may lack the capacity to make certain decisions for themselves, including medical ones. This is where a guardianship can come into play.
When a person turns 18 years old, their parents can no longer legally make decisions for them. If a person has a disability that is so severe as to impede their understanding of their own medical issues, there is still not a presumption that person has capacity, and only a judge can determine otherwise. It is my job to work with the interested person, often the parent of a child who is or will soon be 18, or the adult child of an elderly parent, to secure that decision-making ability for them. Working through the family and probate courts, I present to a judge my client’s interest in the guardianship.
I have seen it time and time again, a parent who has made decisions for their child with a disability for almost 18 years, and suddenly that right disappears as the child approaches 18. They hit walls with their doctors, who are just doing their job. I have also seen it with adult children of parents with disabilities–mom or dad no longer has the capacity to understand the gravity of the medical decisions faced. It is my privilege to play a part in these lives, helping assure that the right to make these important decisions is placed with someone who cares and has the capacity to make them.
The determination of incapacity is specific to each person. I like to question my clients on whether the alleged incapacitated person can make decisions, because the last thing anyone wants for a loved one is to trample on their personal liberties. I explore limiting the guardianship with my clients, and find the right form of a guardianship to present to the judge.
If there are significant financial resources to be managed, I also explore conservatorship with my clients; conservatorships address the financial matters of those who lack the capacity to make decisions due to a disability.