Disabled Child/Adult Guardianship (Article 17A)

Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (“SCPA”) Article 17-A Guardianship proceedings are used to have a guardian appointed for an individual who is intellectually disabled and/or developmentally disabled. The individual can be a minor or an adult. The guardian is typically the parent or parents of the individual, but a non-parent can be appointed in an appropriate case.

The guardianship petition must be accompanied by a certification from the disabled individual’s examining physician and a second certification by a second examining physician or a licensed psychologist.

If there is no objection to the Guardianship petition, the process is handled primarily through correspondence with the Court and requires only one Court appearance at which time the guardian is appointed. Unless waived due to the degree or nature of the disability of the disabled individual, the disabled individual is present for such court appearance.

If the disabled individual has any income or assets, a guardian of the property is necessary. A guardian of the property is responsible for depositing the disabled individual’s funds into a bank account that is jointly held by the guardian and the clerk of the court. Money cannot be withdrawn without court order and an annual report is due to the court each January. For these reasons, many parents of disabled children pursue the option of a Special/Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT), which allows the disabled individual’s funds to be managed without such strict court oversight while maintaining the disabled individual’s eligibility for public benefits and services.

If the minor does not have any income or assets, a guardian of the person is all that is necessary.  This person is authorized to make decisions for the disabled person regarding where they live, medical care, education, etc.

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