When a child turns 18, it is often called the 'age of majority'.
They are now considered an adult and can make their own decisions.
What if my child cannot make their own decisions? Or if I disagree with their decisions?
There are ways for parents or caregivers to get legal permission to make decisions for their children. It's a process where the court must appoint someone to have these legal rights.
It's important to get this settled before your child turns 18!
Note: People with disabilities often need help making decisions in order to protect themselves from harm. They can be easy targets for people to scam or trick into doing something they don't understand. The goal is for your child to keep as many of their rights as possible!
About the options:
If your child can make decisions in some areas but not others, or just needs support making decisions, there are options that let you support them.
If it's clear your child cannot make good decisions on their own, you might want to get legal permission to make decisions for them.
The 2 main legal options for this are Continuing Tutorship and Interdiction.
The 2 main legal options for decision-making status:
1. Continuing Tutorship
For kids age 15 and older who have intellectual disabilities.
You get the right to make decisions for your child and you can keep these rights after they turn 18.
This is the easiest way to get legal permission if you're sure your child will not be able to make their own decisions. The next option, Interdiction, is a little harder to set up.
- For kids age 18 and older. You get the right to make certain decisions for your child — or maybe all of them.
- It's a complicated process and can be expensive. You will usually have to hire a lawyer.
Restrictive or Less Restrictive?
Continuing Tutorship and Interdiction are restrictive options. This means your child no longer has power to make many or all of their own decisions. This limits their rights and should only be done if necessary.
Representation and Mandate (also called Power of Attorney) and appointing an Advocate are less restrictive options. Your child keeps the decision-making power instead of giving it to someone else.
You always want to look at the less restrictive options first.
Click on the boxes below to learn more:
In Louisiana, guardianship doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing decision.
If your family member needs help in some areas of life but not others, there are options that let you help with just the parts they need.
Terms you might hear often:
Guardianship - this means that another person (the guardian) is appointed to make decisions on behalf of the person with a disability. These can include decisions about all aspects of their life.
Conservatorship - this means that another person (the conservator) is appointed just to manage money for the person with a disability.
Below is a chart of the range of guardianship options:
Not all people with disabilities need guardianship or legal alternatives to guardianship. Many resources are available to support self-advocacy and self-determination.
Alternatives not involving the court system
A range of options including a Health Care Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney, or Appointment of Advocate and Authorization can help maximize independence while providing decision support.
Specifies specific areas of financial management where the conservator makes decisions on behalf of the person with a disability. The individual can make all other financial decisions.
The conservator has full control over the finances of the person with a disability. The individual's decision-making rights regarding their money are significantly restricted.
Specifies specific areas of life where the guardian makes decision on behalf of the person with a disability. The individual maintains decision-making rights in all other areas.
The guardian has the authority to make all decisions in all areas of life on behalf of the person with a disability. The individual's decision-making rights are significantly restricted.
When should I start thinking about guardianship?
It is important to start this process before your child turns 18, the legal age of adulthood.
The guardianship process can be time-consuming and complex. Try to start learning and thinking about this decision at least one year in advance.
You must prepare and file the paperwork within clear time windows. There are several key deadlines. (We'll go over this! Keep reading!)
If you are seeking guardianship, allow about 4 to 6 months total from the time you have all of your paperwork ready until the hearing process is complete. Plan for several visits to the probate court: at least 2 trips if all paperwork is completed correctly, and more if there are problems.
Source: Federation for Children with Special Needs
Sources: Misilo (2013), In re: Franques, 70 So.3d 812 (2011)