Parents and legal guardians make decisions for their children until they turn 18 and then the child has the right to make their own choices. When the child has an intellectual or developmental disability, they may have trouble making good decisions for themselves. Parents often worry about what will happen to the child if they become incapacitated or die. Our well-practiced guardianship attorneys can explain what you need to do next.

Establishing a guardianship advocacy offers parents and others the security of knowing a competent person will help the disabled person when they need it. The process is less restrictive than other forms of guardianship and allows the disabled person as much autonomy as possible. A Coconut Grove guardianship advocacy lawyer can provide the answers to all your most important questions.

Guardian Advocates Protect Developmentally Disabled People

Only some people qualify to have guardian advocates. An eligible person’s disability must be due to a specific cause listed in the law, must be expected to last indefinitely, and they must have been diagnosed with the condition before they turned 18.

The qualifying conditions include autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, and other diagnoses. A Coconut Grove attorney consult with a parent on whether a specific child is eligible for a guardian advocate.

In addition to having a qualifying condition, there must be evidence that the person needs a responsible adult to help with certain aspects of their life. Many developmentally disabled people function well enough that they can manage their affairs without assistance. The guardian advocate program is for people whose disabilities interfere with their decision-making or communication skills in one or more areas of life.

Responsibilities of a Guardian Advocate

The guardian advocate is a responsible adult who helps the disabled person (the ward) make decisions. The breadth of their responsibility depends on the ward’s needs.

When the ward needs help with decisions relating to their personal life, they might have a guardian advocate of the person. These guardian advocates help with decisions about where the ward should live, their healthcare, and their social life. A ward who has trouble managing their money and government benefits could have a guardian advocate of the property. A plenary guardian advocate is authorized to decide all aspects of the ward’s life.

However, the advocate must work collaboratively with the ward to the extent possible. The intent of guardian advocacy is to provide the ward with as much autonomy as they can manage, and the expectation is that the guardian advocate offers advice, guidance, and practical assistance. A Coconut Grove attorney can help a guardian advocate or a ward determine their authority over a particular matter.

Establishing a Guardian Advocacy

The parents of a developmentally disabled child can petition the court to appoint a guardian advocate for their child. They may bring a petition once the child is 17 years and six months old, and if the court grants it, the advocacy goes into effect when the child turns 18.

A parent could ask to be the guardian advocate so they have the legal authority to continue to help the child with certain aspects of their life. They also could ask that someone else be the child’s advocate and request a second person be the backup in case the guardian advocate dies or cannot perform their responsibilities. Florida Statute § 393.12(2)(a) allows a developmentally disabled person to voluntarily petition for a guardian advocate.

The person bringing the petition does not have to prove that the proposed ward is incapacitated. However, the petition must demonstrate the proposed ward’s disability interferes with their ability to make or communicate decisions about specific aspects of their life.

Reach Out to a Coconut Grove Attorney Today to Learn About Guardianship Advocacy

The guardianship advocacy system allows a developmentally disabled person to have as much autonomy as they can manage safely, while providing them the help they need. It can be a comfort to parents who are concerned about their child’s welfare after they die, and to the ward, who might feel stress when having to deal with specific aspects of their lives.

Talk to a Coconut Grove guardianship advocacy lawyer if you have a loved one you believe could benefit from the program. Get started today with a free case evaluation from The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm.