Parents of Special needs children often have unique concerns about their child's future. Here is an example of a situation that can easily be remedied with the assistance of an estate-planning attorney. Of special note is the fact that there is a window of time when this procedure is available. If parents do not choose to request Continuing Tutorship before the window closes there may be costly and time-consuming results.
Under Louisiana law, when a person turns eighteen years of age, he or she is determined to have the capability to manage their affairs. In some instances a child with special needs, even though considered capable under the law, may not be able to make decisions on their own or act independently. Unfortunately, after a child turns eighteen he or she becomes legally responsible and the parents/guardians of the child have no legal authority to act on the child's behalf. In this case, parents may petition the court to continue in their role as decision-maker and legal guardian of their child.
This proceeding is called a Continuing Tutorship or Permanent Tutorship. Upon the Court's approval, parents are granted the right to continue taking actions for the benefit of their child. The procedure is fairly simple. First, Parents sign a request asking the Court for continuing tutorship. Then, an attorney will submit the request, the concurrence of the coroner and the results of a standardized I.Q. test to the Court. The appointed Judge will review the petition and the supporting documents. Then the Judge will sign Letters, which is the formal term for the documents granting the parents authority to continue acting in the best interests of their child.
Parents may ask the court for a Continuing Tutorship when their child is between the ages of Fifteen (15) and Eighteen (18). If a child turns eighteen, he or she is then considered an adult will the legal capacity to make decisions and act on their own. In this instance, parents of a mentally impaired child would have to file for an Interdiction Proceeding. An Interdiction proceeding requires a formal hearing before a Judge. Expert witnesses are heard and the Judge has the right to question the child. This proceeding can be time-consuming, costly and stressful. It is important for parents with concerns about the decision-making abilities of their special needs child to consult with an attorney about the procedure that fits their particular circumstances. I am a Louisiana estate-planning attorney and can assist you with this process.
For those who have an interest in reading the laws about the subjects discussed above, please see: Title VIII of the Louisiana Civil Code articles 246 – 385 AND Title VI of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure articles 4031 – 4557.