WHEN SHOULD A GUARDIAN ADVOCACY BE ESTABLISHED?
(Guardian Advocacy Series – Part Three)
Guardian advocacy is a special form of guardianship for individuals with developmental disabilities. Like other forms of guardianship, guardian advocacy involves the court appointing one or more individuals (“guardian advocates”) to help take care of the person with a developmental disability (the “ward”).
Florida law does not specify when a guardian advocacy may be established. However, most of the guardian advocacies that we set up are for developmentally disabled individuals who are seventeen or eighteen years of age.
Eighteen is a critical age for guardian advocacy because all children become legal adults on their eighteenth birthdays. Parents lose their status as natural guardians and consequently their right to make decisions about health care, living situation, and social environment for their child. They also become powerless to prevent him or her from marrying, signing contracts, or managing money.
In our experience, getting a guardian advocate appointed usually takes two to three months. To ensure that parents do not lose the legal authority to assist a developmentally disabled child, we recommend starting the guardian advocacy process at least three months before the child’s eighteenth birthday.
Of course, a guardian advocacy can also be set up for a developmentally disabled adult. Sometimes a parent manages to care for their special needs child without a guardian advocacy for years after the child reaches adulthood. But the parent eventually becomes incapacitated or passes away and someone else needs to care for the developmentally disabled person. This is also a great time to set up a guardian advocacy so that a sibling, other relative, or even professional guardian can take over the parent’s role.
This blog is the third part of a series on Guardian Advocacy. Additional parts will follow over the next month or two. If you have individual questions about guardian advocacy, please feel free to call and make an appointment.