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Encino Special Needs Lawyer: Financial Guardianship and the Autistic Adult

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Autism is a spectrum, and everyone who falls on that spectrum is unique. Some will grow to be adults who can generally function in the world, make decisions on their own behalf, and effectively communicate them. Others cannot. However, all adults who reach the age of majority become independent in the eyes of the law and are presumed able to make their own decisions. Yet, some autistic adults may never be able to make some or all of the important decisions an adult has to make. Therefore, parents of autistic adults may choose to initiate guardianship over their child.

Financial Guardianship v. Personal Guardianship

Many autistic adults can make basic, day-to-day decisions for themselves, but may struggle with other tasks such as how to manage money. A parent may then choose to become their child’s financial guardian, handling the child’s financial affairs and leaving other decisions up to the child him- or herself. This is financial guardianship, which is distinct from personal guardianship, where the guardian makes all decisions for an adult declared legally incompetent.

What does a financial guardian do?

A financial guardian manages another adult’s finances. They may do things such as pay bills, make or authorize purchases on the adult’s behalf, allocate funds for medical procedures or other needed things, and create or maintain bank accounts, investments, and estates.

A financial guardian is required to account for the adult’s money, and they may not financially benefit from the adult’s estate or money. For example, a guardian can use the money to buy clothes for the incompetent adult, not for herself.

Why not create a power of attorney instead?

In the case of power of attorney, one adult grants power over his or her affairs to another adult. The adult granting power of attorney can revoke it when that adult is competent to do so. This person must be competent when granting the power and understand the consequences of turning over power to another adult. An individual with special needs may or may not have the legal competency to sign official documents or give their rights over to another person. When a doctor or attorney determines this is not possible, signing a Power of Attorney is no longer an option and the courts must get involved instead.

Should I petition the court for financial guardianship over my child?

You may already be making financial decisions on your child’s behalf as an extension of what you were doing when your child was a minor. However, having financial guardianship can safeguard your child from exploitation and from financial troubles.

Talk to our Encino special needs attorneys to find out if becoming financial guardian is best for you and your child.  If so, we can help you through the process of gaining guardianship over your adult child.   Simply call the office at (818) 905-6088 to schedule a consultation.