Many parents in Massachusetts take care of the special needs of their children with autism without a second thought as to their authority to be a child’s decision maker. However, when their child becomes a legal adult, things change.
According to Autism Speaks Inc., if an adult with autism cannot make his or her own decisions, including those involving their finances and health care, then he or she needs a legal guardian or conservator. This is done through the court system.
Not every person on the autism spectrum needs someone to take care of all the decision-making needs. In fact, many are independent adults. However, some aspects of adulthood can be challenging, and a person may need someone to take care of these. The court may determine that only a limited guardianship is necessary. In this case, only certain responsibilities are allocated to a guardian.
Mass.gov explains that conservatorship refers specifically to matters involving the protection of business affairs and property. Like guardianship, conservatorship can be limited to the responsibilities that a person is unable to take care of. For example, a person with autism may own resources such as real estate that he or she is unable to manage. The conservator may be appointed to take care of these and provide the income to the owner in the form of monthly allowance.
Typically, parents will need to begin the process of preparing their child for adulthood before the 18 birthday. If there is a situation where an adult with autism needs but does not have a guardian or conservator, the court may appoint someone temporarily until the final appointment is made. Temporary appointments are generally limited to 90 days except in extraordinary situations.