Did you know when your disabled child turns age 18, the legal age of majority in Florida, your right as the parent and natural guardian to make medical, educational, living and financial decisions for your disabled child expires, without regard to your child's disabilities?

In order to continue making all of the critical decisions your disabled child requires concerning their care and daily maintenance when your child turns 18, you must petition the court to become legal guardian advocate for your disabled child.

This is a simplified guardianship procedure in Florida available specifically for adult persons with developmental disabilities, such as Autism, Spina Bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome and Aspergers.  A guardian advocate proceeding, though not without cost to set up, is significantly less expensive to establish than a "full-blown" incapacity guardianship. 

Becoming appointed guardian advocate for your adult child begins with filing a petition with the court and outlining the reasons a guardian advocate is necessary. Medical reports, including ISP or IEP reports, need to be filed to show the nature of your child's disability. Both parents should consent to the petition (even if divorced) to avoid unnecessary litigation and time delays in appointing a guardian advocate for your child. An attorney will be appointed by the court to meet with your child and represent his or her interests and make recommendations to the court on whether they believe appointment of a guardian advocate for your child is appropriate. 

Once appointed, initial reports and then annual reports will need to be filed with the court outlining the care plan for your child and accounting for any of his or her property, social security benefits or other income. Basically the Court wants to ensure that you, as your child's guardian advocate, are acting in his or her best interests at all times. 

Another consideration if you have a child with special needs who is receiving, or might in the future receive, any type of public assistance benefits, is to include a Special Needs Trust (also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust) in your estate planning documents. A Special Needs Trust is a discretionary trust to financially provide for your special needs child but which won't jeopardize those public assistance benefits. 

Download our free planning guide on these issues now.