A lot of people with intellectual disabilities, including autism, manage to function fairly independently — even when they still need someone to protect their interests.
If you’re the parent of a special needs child who will soon become a legal adult, you face some difficult decisions. You don’t want your child to be exposed to some of the financial dangers that can sweep them up, but you may also be reluctant to apply for guardianship knowing that means taking away their autonomy and restricting their authority to make important life decisions.
Is there anything less restrictive? Conservatorship is another option. It can allow your adult child with special needs more freedom. While still keeping the conserved person’s best interests in mind, conservators are expected to make decisions in consultation with that person. The ultimate goal is to balance the desire to protect the conserved person from harm while still giving them the most freedom possible to choose the path for their life.
If you’re primarily concerned about your adult child’s financial future and want to make certain they don’t fall prey to grifters and “friends” who will use them for their money and benefits, you may also want to consider setting up a special needs trust or some other kind of trust. The trustee would then have oversight over how the money in that trust is allotted (according to the provisions of the trust).
Grappling with the changing needs of a special needs child who is about to reach adulthood isn’t easy. There’s no automatic “right” solution for everyone because each special-needs child has varying levels of functionality. Often, the best place to start is in an attorney’s office. They can help you explore your options and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each.