When a person turns 18 in New York, the law presumes that the individual is competent to make important life discussions. In other words, a person is not allowed to make medical, financial or personal choices on behalf of an “of age” individual. However, what happens if a legal adult is incapable of making life decisions without assistance? Is there a legal remedy for those in need?

Article 17-A Guardianship

The answer is “yes.” Article 17-A Guardianship is a Surrogate Court action that designates a guardian to act on behalf of an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities after that person reaches legal adulthood. The Surrogate Court can appoint a guardian for the adult in need – a person over the age of 18 who do not possess the communicative, cognitive or educational capacity to make self-directed decisions. A guardian is helpful when a person cannot provide informed consent for personal, legal, medical or financial affairs.

Guardianship is only granted when the court determines that it is necessary for and in the best interests of the particular adult. Medical evidence or certifications are required from a licensed physician and psychologist (or two licensed doctors, one of whom has experience working with developmentally disabled persons).

In general, guardians are relatives or friends; however, a non-profit organization can also provide guardianship under Article 17-A.

Get help for your loved one

If you feel a loved one may need support as they transition from youth into adulthood, this may be a good time to speak with an attorney. A lawyer can ensure that helpful safeguards are in place for that person.