For many families of people with special needs, caretaking is a point of great concern. Loved ones of special needs adults may struggle to determine the best way to provide care and make sure all their needs are met and their health is prioritized.
Guardianship allows a person to act as a representative of someone and to make decisions on their behalf. When you take on the role, you help protect the rights, safety and wellbeing of the person. Often times, one or both parent can act as the guardian of their child, and in other common cases, children with an incapacitated parent, grandparents or even siblings or extended relatives may step into the role. Anyone over the age of 18 may petition the court to become the guardian of a person.
There are several options for helping adults with special needs manage their affairs and decisions, though, so how do you know if guardianship is the best choice?
Understanding guardianship and conservatorship
You can start by defining the full scope of responsibilities. The state of Wisconsin defines the caretaker as the guardian, and the person being cared for is called a “Ward” of the guardian. In some cases, a conservator can also be appointed to manage financial affairs and assets.
Once you’ve filed a petition with the court, a judge will oversee a hearing. You should work with an attorney to help manage your case and make sure the legal documents are in order, as well as to ensure that the scope of your intentions are clearly communicated in court.
You can take on a permanent or a temporary guardianship, depending on the circumstances.
Making the decision
If you recognize a need for someone to manage the health decisions of the person who is incapacitated, a guardianship is most likely the best choice. Sometimes, a person is cognitively capable of managing their own affairs to some degree, and may be able to retain some decision-making of their own. A doctor’s examination will be part of the process of making the judgement.
Guardianship is an important role that is not to be taken lightly. If you decide to become a disabled adult’s legal guardian, it’s a good idea to have a second guardian picked out in the event of your death.
Your role will be as unrestrictive as possible for the person and will only entail as much assistance as absolutely necessary.
Consult with an attorney if you’re considering entering into a guardianship on behalf of someone.