Developmental disabilities can prevent a person from physically caring for themselves or from making important personal and financial decisions. Parents usually handle these tasks until a child turns 18. After that, the child has the legal authority to make decisions for themselves even if they are unable to do so.

Guardian advocacy is a way for parents and others to ensure a developmentally disabled person has a competent adult in their life to make decisions for them. When your child or loved one reaches adulthood or when their 18th birthday is looming, contact a Little Gables guardian advocacy lawyer for help protecting them through their adulthood. Our trained guardianship attorneys are your partner in this situation.

Who Does the Guardian Advocacy System Protect?

The guardian advocacy system protects people with developmental disabilities. When children turn 18, their parents no longer have the legal authority to make decisions for them or handle their money. Appointing a guardian advocate is necessary when a disabled child needs someone to help them with some or all their life management activities.

The law requires a person to have certain specific conditions to be considered developmentally disabled and potentially in need of a guardian advocate. According to Florida Statute § 393.063(11), a person is developmentally disabled if they were diagnosed with one of the following conditions before they turned 18:

  • Autism;
  • Cerebral palsy;
  • Down syndrome;
  • Intellectual disability;
  • Phelan-McDermid syndrome;
  • Prader-Willi syndrome;
  • Spina bifida.

In addition, the condition must be expected to continue indefinitely.

The impact of these conditions can be very different and just because someone has a diagnosis, it does not mean they need a guardian advocate. Many people manage their lives well with these conditions. The guardian advocate process in Little Gables is only for people whose conditions prevent them from making or communicating their decisions.

What is a Guardian Advocate?

A guardian advocate is a competent adult who makes certain decisions for a developmentally disabled person, known as the “ward.” The scope of their authority depends on the extent of the ward’s disabilities. The law allows adults to exercise authority over their lives to the degree possible, and guardian advocacy is a less restrictive form of guardianship than the other forms available in Florida courts.

Some developmentally disabled people can live independently and work at jobs outside the home but might be challenged in handling their money. A guardian advocate could ensure the ward receives their wages and any benefits they are due and pays their bills. Other developmentally disabled people need help with other aspects of their lives.

When a Judge appoints a guardian advocate, the order will describe the aspects of the ward’s life the guardian must oversee. The guardian advocate has no authority to manage tasks the court did not include in its guardianship order. A Little Gables attorney could explain a guardian advocacy order so both the guardian and the ward understand what decisions the ward can make without prior approval.

Establishing a Guardian Advocacy

Someone seeking guardian advocacy must petition the probate court. Unlike other guardianship proceedings, the court does not need to declare the ward is incapacitated.

The petition must clearly state why the developmentally disabled person needs a guardian advocate and must present proof that their disability prevents them from making or communicating certain decisions for themselves. A Little Gables attorney could help a parent or other interested people draft a petition to establish a guardian advocacy.

There are three kinds of advocates. A guardian advocate of the person makes decisions about healthcare and social activities and where the ward lives. A guardian advocate of the property makes financial decisions and handles the ward’s money. A plenary guardian advocate has the authority to make decisions about the ward’s health, living situation, and finances.

Consult a Little Gables Attorney Today if You Are Considering Guardian Advocacy

Developmentally disabled people can be vulnerable physically, socially, and financially. Guardian advocacy is a way to ensure they are protected from exploitation but retain as much independence as possible. The court supervises the guardian advocate so they can work for the well-being of the ward.

When your developmentally disabled child is approaching adulthood, talk to a Little Gables guardian advocacy lawyer soon. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm can explain the role of a guardian advocate and help you decide whether it is right for your child. We offer case evaluations at no cost to you.