Children with Disabilities: Creating Limited Conservatorship Before They Turn 18

According to the law, once your children turn 18, they’re adults, legally responsible for their own actions and decisions. Yet most parents would admit to being a little apprehensive as their children leave the nest and begin building their own lives. They hope that if they’ve done their job–instilled sound values and a work ethic–their kids will go on to become happy, responsible and productive adults, and in most cases, there’s a happy ending.

What about those families where there are children with mental disabilities?

But what about those children who are born with developmental disabilities? Since these children are still minors, the parents have the same parental rights as others. But unlike normal children who exercise their rights to become legal adults when they turn 18, children who are developmentally disabled don’t have that luxury because they still require help when they turn 18. Even for those who are high-functioning and lead fairly normal lives, there are many things that they simply cannot do without help, including managing finances, signing contracts, making decisions about education, training and marriage.

Petitioning the court for a Limited Conservatorship BEFORE disabled child turns 18

Parents of a developmentally disabled child need to petition the court for a Limited Conservatorship before their child turns 18. As a Limited Conservator, the parents become their child’s advocates—they will look out for their best interests and protect them. The developmentally disabled can usually do many things on their own, so at the court hearing, the judge gives the Limited Conservator power to do those things the Conservatee cannot do without help.
If the parents don’t petition the court for a Limited Conservatorship before their disabled child turns 18, they can’t act on behalf of their child when he/she turns 18, resulting in problems at school or work, with doctors and anywhere else that requires the signature of a legal guardian. The consequences are that while the disabled adult children may have turned 18, they are not legally able to become their own signatories; they require an additional legal signature for the forms and contracts that are increasingly common in many of today’s business matters. If parents (or other legal guardian) do not petition for Limited Conservatorship, it creates a situation where neither the parents nor the developmentally disabled adult child is legally able to sign for him/her.

With a Limited Conservatorship, parents will be making decisions that affect overall health and wellbeing–decisions that affect:

  • Meals, living arrangements, housekeeping and recreation
  • Health and personal care
  • Transportation, including taking the Conservatee to doctor’s appointments
Once the Court has granted the Limited Conservatorship, it maintains ongoing supervision over the Limited Conservatorship and frequently makes decisions as to whether the Conservatee is receiving the treatment that is most appropriate for his/her circumstances.
If you have a child with a mental disability who is turning 18, and you need to create a Limited Conservatorship, contact DP Legal SolutionsWe prepare the legal documents and petition the court, making it easy for families with developmentally disabled children.


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