Many people wonder whether or not it is important to become a legal guardian (court-ordered appointment) of their loved one who has an intellectual and/or developmental disability. In New York State, parents no longer have legal authority regarding their children as of the age of 18, and therefore, cannot legally continue to make decisions on their behalf. For parents of individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, Article 17A of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act was passed to extend their decision-making authority for their loved ones who are 18 years of age or older.
Guardianship is a legal arrangement under which one person (the guardian) has the legal authority and responsibility to care for another and his or her property. A guardianship is established due to the person’s inability to legally act on his or her own behalf. Once appointed by the court, a guardian acts on behalf of a person who has been determined unable to manage his or her own personal affairs without assistance, and acts solely in the best interest of that person. The legal guardian advocates for the person to ensure they receive proper medical treatment while also ensuring the emotional and social needs of the person. The guardian advocates for the person to receive all appropriate and necessary services such as day program, employment, residential and other services while respecting the person's dignity and focusing on the person's needs, wants and quality of life. A legal guardian plays a significant role in a person's life not only by advocating on behalf of the individual and assisting with decision-making as needed, but also by nurturing the person's unique personality and abilities.
A legal guardian is someone who is actively involved in the person’s life. Many times, it is the person’s parents, sibling, family member or close friend. Some factors to consider if you are contemplating guardianship are your commitment and availability to the person, your age and health, and how the person feels about you becoming their legal guardian.
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