When a person turns 18 in New York, he or she gains the legal rights of adulthood, including the right to decide where to live, the right to enter into contracts, the right to decide about medical treatment, and more. However, people with serious mental disabilities or those who are developmentally disabled typically need assistance with decisions and personal care. The people who make decisions for those individuals are called their guardians.
New York law governs the appointment of guardians, as well as the duty and authority of guardians for mentally disabled or developmentally disabled individuals. Under New York law, a person with special needs must be considered either mentally retarded or developmentally disabled in order to have a legal guardian appointed.
To be considered mentally retarded, a person must have sub-average intellectual functioning, which originates during development, and is associated with impairment in adaptive behavior.
Under law, a developmentally disabled individual meets a couple of characteristics. First, their disability must be attributable to: (1) cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurological impairment, autism, or traumatic head injury, (2) any other condition of a person found to be closely related to mental retardation, either because of intellectual functioning or behavior, (3) dyslexia from a disability or mental retardation.
In addition, the disability must originate before the age of 22, unless the disability was caused by a traumatic head injury.
For a person with those special needs, a guardian can be appointed if the person has been certified by a licensed physician and a licensed psychologist (or two licensed physicians) as being incapable of managing himself or his affairs because of the mental retardation or the developmental disability.
Guardianships for special needs individuals can be critically important for the care of the special needs person.
If you need legal assistance with obtaining a guardianship over a special needs person in New York, call the New York Guardianship Attorneys at Friedman & Ranzenhofer at 716-542-5444. We have significant experience in New York guardianships and will be happy to walk you through the process.