What is Guardianship?

What is guardianshp? A parent is considered by law, the natural guardian of his or her child until that child reaches the age of 18. Once the child reaches the age of 18, however, a parent or sibling (or other potential guardian) must petition the court to grant guardianship status over the said adult with disabilities. If you become a guardian, your role will be to make decisions on behalf of your disabled loved one (now referred to as a "ward"), and perhaps advocate for him or her.

Did You Know...

Parents do not have the legal authority to make decisions for their child once their child turns 18 years of age -- no matter the child's level of competency. This includes medical, housing, vocational and financial decisions.

Linda A. Geraci, Disability Law Attorney

What Guardianship is Not:

Obtaining legal guardianship over an individual does not mean that you must take your ward into your home or become financially responsible for him or her. You do not take on the obligation of support and you do not become their caretaker. Guardians are not expected to use their own funds on behalf of the disabled person. The disabled person has his or her entitlements and you may or may not be involved with financial management.

The rights of a person with a developmental disability are not taken away with guardianship. A ward still has the right to vote if he or she has the capacity to do so. Finally, a guardian is granted the authority to protect the interests of his or her ward.

For more on what is guardianship visit the National Guardianship Association site. Review their state guardian resources, publications, and a list of registered and master guardians.

The New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) has developed at no charge, "A Guide for Families and Friends of People with Developmental Disabilities" to help families better understand the many important facts and information on issues involved in planning for the future. This publication provides parents and guardians with up-to-date information on how to best plan and prepare for the future well-being of their family members, i.e. housing options, government benefits, estate planning, trusts, guardianship, and burial planning.

To download NYS approved forms for Article 17 Guardianship, go to the New York State Commission on Quality of Care website. The Commission also offers parents a free Guardianship CD-Rom. To request a CD write, call or visit:

David Brown, P&A Program Administration
Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy
for Persons with Disabilities
401 State Street
Schenectady, NY 12305-2397
(518) 388-2893 (518) 388-2890 [FAX]

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