As students with special needs prepare to enter high school, a critical topic that school districts will discuss is guardianship or alternatives. This conversation usually takes place during an ARD meeting. When a student reaches the age of 18, they are legally considered an adult, and all rights are transferred to them.

However, parents and students with disabilities should carefully consider all options before deciding if the student is ready to take on this responsibility. Guardianship is a legal process designed to protect individuals at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It involves the court system and an attorney and removes certain rights and privileges from a person deemed “incapacitated” under state law.

Guardianship may be full or partial, depending on the person’s needs and abilities. It is important to consider all options before deciding on guardianship and ensure that the decision is in the student’s best interest.

Guardianship Alternatives in Texas

Guardianship is a legal arrangement where a person is appointed to make decisions for someone unable to make decisions for themselves. However, guardianship can be a restrictive and costly process. Fortunately, in Texas, there are alternatives to guardianship that can help individuals maintain their independence and decision-making abilities.

Supported Decision Making

Supported decision-making is a process that allows individuals with disabilities or impairments to make decisions with the help of a team of supporters. This team can include family members, friends, and professionals such as doctors or social workers. Supported decision-making aims to allow individuals to maintain their independence and decision-making abilities.

The process of supported decision-making involves identifying the individual’s goals and preferences, as well as their strengths and limitations. The team then works together to provide the individual with the information and support they need to make informed decisions. This can include providing information about different options, helping the individual weigh the pros and cons of each option, and assisting with the decision-making process.

Supported decision-making can be used in a variety of situations, including healthcare decisions, financial decisions, and decisions related to living arrangements. It is a flexible and person-centered approach that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual.

Financial and Medical Power of Attorneys

Power of attorney documents are legal documents that grant someone else the authority to make decisions and take actions on behalf of another person. Financial and medical power of attorneys serve as viable alternatives to guardianship in situations where an individual cannot make decisions independently.

A financial power of attorney grants a designated person, known as the agent, the authority to manage the individual’s financial affairs. This can include handling banking transactions, paying bills, and managing investments. Similarly, a medical power of attorney allows the appointed agent to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the individual, ensuring their medical needs are met.

These legal arrangements provide a sense of security and allow for personal autonomy, as the individual can choose someone they trust to make decisions aligned with their wishes.

Representative Payee

A representative payee is a program offered by the Social Security Administration that allows a person to appoint someone else to manage their Social Security benefits. This can include retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor benefits. The representative payee can help the individual pay bills, manage their finances, and meet their basic needs. This can be especially helpful for individuals with difficulty managing their finances due to a disability or impairment.

To be appointed a representative payee, the individual must apply to the Social Security Administration and undergo a background check. Once approved, the representative payee is responsible for managing the individual’s Social Security benefits and reporting to the Social Security Administration on how the benefits are used.

A representative payee is an alternative to guardianship that can help individuals maintain their independence and decision-making abilities. It is a flexible and person-centered approach that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual.

Special Needs Trusts

Special needs trusts are a legal tool that can be used to provide financial support for individuals with disabilities. They are designed to protect the assets of the person with a disability while ensuring they have access to the financial resources they need to meet their needs.

Unlike guardianship, which gives one person complete control over another person’s decisions and financial affairs, special needs trusts allow more flexibility and control. The person with a disability can still make their own decisions and have a say in how their money is used while also having the security of knowing that their assets are protected.

Special needs trusts can be set up in various ways, depending on the needs of the individual. They can be funded with assets, including cash, property, and investments. The trustee manages the assets and ensures they are used in the beneficiary’s best interests.

Benefits of Alternatives to Guardianship for Your Loved One

As a caring individual, you always seek the best options and support for your loved one with special needs. You’ve probably considered guardianship, but did you know some alternatives may better suit your unique situation? Let’s explore how these alternatives can provide value and empower your family member with more autonomy.

Opting for an alternative to guardianship can offer several advantages. It allows your loved one to maintain dignity and independence while receiving necessary support.

Here are some benefits worth considering:

  • Less restrictive: Alternatives such as supported decision-making or powers of attorney grant more freedom than traditional guardianships, letting individuals make choices about their own lives.
  • Flexible arrangements: These options can be tailored to meet specific needs and preferences, ensuring that each person gets the right level of assistance.
  • Cost-effective: In many cases, pursuing an alternative to guardianship is less expensive than going through the lengthy court process required for establishing a formal guardian.

At Shields Law, our special needs law attorneys will help guide you through this critical decision-making process. Together, we’ll find the most appropriate solution that meets your and your loved one’s goals while ensuring they receive proper care and consideration.

Contact Shields Law

Discover a brighter future for your loved ones with Shields Law – an award-winning Texas special needs law firm. We’re compassionate, empowering, and innovative in providing alternatives to guardianship. Don’t wait; contact us today to start working together to protect what matters most.