Guardianship and Alternatives

Age of Majority

When an individual turns 18 years of age, he or she is legally identified as an adult. This is known as the Age of Majority. With this change comes the responsiblity for making legal, financial, medical, and other important life decisions.

Some individuals with disabilities may not be prepared to make these decisions on their own at age 18. When this is the case, parents and guardians should decide ahead of time what kind of legal supports or protections will be necessary to protect the safety and rights of the individual.  If legal protections are not in place the Transfer of Rights will occur when the individual turns 18 years old.

Knowing Your Options

There are many ways that parents and guardians can seek to establish legal protections for an individual with a disability. It is important to consider all of these options in order to find the best fit for the individual's specific needs:



  • Legal guardian is appointed to manage all financial and personal affairs for an individual deemed incompetent by the court
  • Requires legal hearing where evidence of incompentence ispresented
  • Guardianship is the broadest form of legal protection; alternatives should be considered before pursuing this option
  • Guardianship may be limited to a specific area of decision-making 



  • A conservator is appointed to manage only the financial affairs for an individual with a disability
  • Requires legal hearing where the need for a conservator is established
  • Conservatorship is a good alternative to guardianship if the person only needs support with financial decisions
  • A Conservator takes responsibility for managing an individual's bills, debts, and assets



  • Allows a trustee to control specific assets on the behalf ofan individual
  • No court intervention needed
  • Legal consultation is recommended when creating a trust


Special Bank Accounts

  • Joint bank accounts can be created to provide assistance with financial decision-making
  • Withdrawal limits, automatic payments, and direct deposits can be easily arranged


Representative Payee 

  • A person identified as a "representative payee"recieves and manages specific deposits on the behalf of an individual
  • The individual continues to make all other financial and personal decisions


Health Care Proxy 

  • A health care proxy is a legal document that allows an individual to give a specific person the power to make health care decisions for them
  • A health care proxy goes into effect when a doctor determines that the individual no longer has the capicity to make their own health care decisions


Power of Attorney 

  • A Power of Attorney document allows an individual to share financial decisions with a specific person whom they delegate
  • No court intervention needed


Information provided on this page is for reference only. 

Parents and guardians should seek professional legal counsel when considering guardianship and alternative options.

For More Information... 

The following websites will provide more detailed information about guardianship and alternatives to guardianship:

Guardianship Options