Choosing to serve as someone’s adult guardian or conservator is a huge responsibility.  An adult guardian for a person with special needs is generally tasked with overseeing that individual’s physical well-being, medical care, housing, day-to-day needs, and sometimes his or her finances.

In the majority of cases, it’s a biological parent (or parents) who will apply to become their child’s adult legal guardian when he or she turns 18. But even parents will ask us if they are able to appoint an “alternative guardian” or someone else who can help with all required responsibilities and duties.  Most commonly, we are asked by parents of individuals with special needs if they can appoint one of their other adult children, a stepparent, a sibling, a grandparent, or other relative to serve as co-guardian who could have the same legal rights as the main guardian.


Legally speaking, having a co-guardian is absolutely possible, and it’s something we often encourage to help lighten the load. However, the parent or main guardian cannot appoint this person him or herself.  Instead, the candidate will need to go through a formal legal process with the courts where they will petition to serve as a co-guardian. During this process, the court will need to verify that the person is indeed capable of serving in this capacity, and from there, a judge will ultimately approve or deny the request.


When we meet with families to start the process of filing for a guardianship or conservatorship over a young adult with special needs, we will typically ask up front if the main candidate for guardianship wants someone else to serve in a co-guardian role.  In general, it’s easier and less expensive to take care of everything all at one time.  The bottom line is that every family is different, and it’s important to work with an attorney who will help you create an individualized plan that actually works over the long haul.


Here at the Roulet Law Firm, we want parents and caregivers to feel as secure and supported in their roles as possible, as that ultimately results in the best care for the person with special needs.  If you have questions about how to create a Special Needs Plan that takes into account the unique dynamics or challenges in your family, please feel free to contact us at 941-909-4644 or 763-420-5087 to schedule an appointment.




Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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