Parents of a minor child who has a disability (such as autism, mental retardation, etc.) act for their minor child by making financial and health care decisions. All parents who have a disabled child eventually must determine how they will continue to make such decisions when the child attains 18 years of age, and is considered an adult. Absent a ruling by a court that the child is legally incapacitated, the child can make his or her own financial and health care decisions and the parents can no longer legally make such decisions.
The parents of the disabled child must decide how they will continue to make decisions for their child. If the child has the requisite level of capacity, he or she can sign a Durable General Power of Attorney and a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. These documents allow the child to name the persons who shall have the authority to make financial and health care decisions for him or her. In the event the child does not have the capacity to sign power of attorney documents, the parents must file a petition for guardianship with the appropriate court (in Pennsylvania, the local Orphans’ Court). The petition seeks a determination by the court that the child is in fact incapable of making his or her own decisions and the parents should be appointed as the guardians of the child. To prove the child is incapable of making his or her own decisions, the parents must present the testimony of the child’s physician (typically by written interrogatories). The court relies heavily on the testimony of the physician in making its decision.
If you are a parent of a disabled child who will be turning 18 years of age in the near future, you should consult an attorney who routinely represents families where one of the members of the family is disabled. Please contact Rachuba Law Offices at Call 215-870-8843 or via the website at www.rachubalaw.com if you wish to discuss your options with respect to a child or other family member who is disabled.