Explore the legal implications of reaching age 18


Will your child be his/her own guardian for medical and/or financial decision making?

What is guardianship and powers of attorney?

When your child with Autism reaches age 18, you may want to consider guardianship. Without a guardian, adult agencies can consult with the disabled individual and ask them to agree to changes in their plan without parental involvement. Most parents don’t realize they no longer have the same parental rights over their children when they reach the age of majority and become adults. Parents can be faced with challenges when they want to continue to be involved in the medical care or financial affairs of their adult dependents over age 18. Due to HIPAA regulations and medical privacy, they face barriers in accessing medical information and having a say in medical decision-making process. Fortunately, there are avenues to allow parents to continue their involvement in the medical and financial areas of their children’s lives. A “Guardianship” is a legal proceeding where someone (usually a parent) is seeking to (continue to) be the guardian over a person and/or his or her assets and financial affairs. This is a legal proceeding that is decided in a court of law.

One alternative to a Guardianship is to have an attorney create Powers of Attorney for medical and/or financial affairs. These are documents created by an attorney. The attorney must be sure your loved one who is signing over these powers to you is cognitively able to understand the nature of the documents. Done in the privacy of an attorney’s office, it is a less “threatening” way to stay involved in these important areas of your child’s life. Keep in mind, neither guardianships nor powers of attorney can be filed prior to the individual’s 18th birthday, but it’s a good idea to start discussions with an attorney a few months beforehand.

Guardianship and Its Alternatives: A Handbook on Maryland Law

How do I help prepare my teen for becoming responsible for his/her own health care?

A Health Care Transition Guide for Young Adults (PDF)

This guide provides information to help young adults understand what it means to be legally in charge of their health care and how to stay healthy as they grow into adulthood. Includes quizzes on being an adult with special needs, life as an adult, talking with doctors, plus additional web resources on college and work.

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