When a child reaches the age of 18 in Texas, he or she is legally considered an adult. But the situation can be different if a child is diagnosed with disabilities making him incapable of making legal decisions.
“As a parent you’re good until he’s 18, or the child is 18. After that, you have to get guardianship of your child,” said Dale Potter, who has guardianship over his son.
Dale Potter has a son named Nolan, who is 29 years old and incapable of living on his own. In Texas, when a child turns 18, they legally become an adult– granted all of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood.
“We knew something was wrong right at birth.That was the start of our adventure,” explained Potter.
However, when that child does not have the capability to make their own decisions, a guardian may need to be appointed. By definition, a guardian is a person who is legally responsible for someone like Nolan — who is unable to manage his own affairs.
“He has autism, he’s non-verbal, a little hearing-impaired, sight-impaired. He’s on the IQ level of a two or three year-old,” explained Potter.
Because of Nolan’s multiple disabilities, he is unable to make his own medical or personal decisions. Even though he’s 29, his father Dale is his legal guardian.
“There is a process. It’s quite an ordeal, it took a long time to get through with the state,” recalled Potter.
The lengthy process of guardianship requires the services of a licensed attorney because it involves a legal action against the person in question.
“The attorneys have to do their investigating just to make sure that the individual is really in need of a guardian. You do lose a lot of your civil rights, so we want to make sure that having a guardian is in the best interest of the individual,” said Michelle Huckaby, Program Director of the Guardiansip Alliance of the Concho Valley.
Aside from being difficult and lengthy, the process is not inexpensive.
“It’s gonna cost, from what I’m hearing, anywhere from $4,000, up,” recounted Potter.
The process is never-ending. Once the individual is appointed a guardian, the letters of guardianship must be renewed annually.
Having guardianship over someone requires many decisions and lots of planning for the rest of someone like Nolan’s life.
“We have a good set-up right now. When I go, it’ll be passed down to my daughter or somebody else in the family. We’ve put money aside for him that will be in a trust when I die. You can’t just think about today, but you’ve got to think about tomorrow and the future,” suggested Potter.