Under typical circumstances, when a person reaches the age of 18, they are considered free in the eyes of the law, in Indiana and across the United States. This applies whether the person has disabilities or not and the person has all of the rights and responsibilities that come with no longer being a minor. However, this would not be the case if the parents or another responsible party seeks guardianship or some alternative to guardianship and it is granted to them.
A legal guardianship is quite specific in the eyes of the law. It is a legal process in which a judge designates a specific person to make decisions for the person who has been deemed incapacitated. Another term for this individual is that they are a “protected person.” There are different types of guardianship and there are several alternatives to guardianship. Interestingly, the alternatives to guardianship usually entail less cost but the people involved still need to appear in court.
What are the alternatives to guardianship for adults who have disabilities?
There are several different types of alternative to guardianship:
- Supported Decision-Making: This type of alternative to guardianship. It is a document in which the person chooses specific people to support or help them with making decisions. It is meant to help the person with disabilities to make decisions and thus become more successful. Each Supported Decision-Making alternative is unique and it can be as general or as specific as necessary. Additionally, it can include details on health care, finances, benefits from the U.S. government, and education.
- Health Care Representative: Another alternative to a guardianship is a Health Care Representative. The individual might choose this if there are specific issues surrounding the health of the individual with disabilities, such as the person’s inability to make healthcare decisions independently. The person who is chosen to be the representative must be designated when the person with disabilities is competent. The person with disabilities is able to cancel the representative’s position whenever they wish to do so.
- Power of Attorney (POA): This is a document that is written and notarized. The document must come from a competent person to a person who appoints the first person to make decisions for them. Just like other alternatives, the POA can be general or it can be specific and it can cover many different topics, such as health care, finances, benefits, and education. There are some distinct differences between a guardianship and a POA, however:
- A POA is voluntary only; a guardianship can be voluntary or involuntary
- A POA is revocable; a guardianship can only be ended by a court order
- A POA comes from a competent person; a guardianship comes from a person who proves that the other person is not competent
- A POA is not done in court; a guardianship is done in court
How do you become a guardian?
There are several steps that you must follow if you wish to become a guardian.
- Hire a lawyer to walk you through the process
- Acquire knowledge about the finances and health of the person with disabilities
- Acquire the person’s health report if their disabilities are physical
- File a form called a Petition for Guardianship in court. In this step, you must notify the person with disabilities as well as their family
- Pay to file the form
- You must prove in court that the person is incapacitated and needs a guardian. You will prove this by using expert witnesses and sworn testimony
- If you are granted guardianship, you will get permission to make decisions on the other person’s behalf
Getting solid legal advice in Indiana
You may be aware that you need to pursue guardianship on behalf of a person with disabilities but you may be unsure of the process and what you need to do to make it happen. This is where an experienced Indiana guardianship attorney can help. The attorney may be able to walk you through the process so that you have a deeper understanding of what is involved in pursuing adult guardianship while protecting your rights and the rights of the other person at all times.