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The DSAGSL will bring you a recap of what you might have missed in previous weeks as well as additional information about other important topics. If you would like more information about a particular issue featured in this edition, contact Erin at

On March 24, over 60 parents, professionals and caregivers attended a presentation on Guardianship: Options and Alternatives. This presentation was graciously provided, in partnership with the Albert Pujols Wellness Center for Adults with Down Syndrome, by Bhavik R. Patel, JD, attorney at Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard as well as a wonderful panel of parents. Below are many considerations when thinking about guardianship and other alternatives for your child’s future.

  • Parents are the natural guardians of their children until the age of 18. In the state of Missouri, all persons become emancipated (become their own legal guardian) when they turn 18 years old regardless of their ability. It is important to start planning early.
  • There are several options parents have when considering guardianship options and alternatives. It is recommended by the UMKC Institute for Human Development that the least restrictive option be considered first and that options be considered based on an individual’s strengths not his or her diagnosis.
  • Ultimately, this is an incredibly personal decision that an entire family should make together and should be based on your own child’s specific needs. The DSA recommends speaking with an attorney about all of your options.
      • Guardianship: This is the most restrictive limitation on personal decision-making. This is the result of a court hearing that establishes the need to appoint a guardian to assume substitute decision-making powers for another person deemed incapable of exercising his or her own rights due to “incapacity or incompetence.” The ward loses the right to vote, obtain a license, approve medical procedures, enter into contracts, etc.
      • Limited Guardianship: Very similar to guardianship, but the “ward” maintains certain legal rights and freedoms dependent on the individual’s skills and needs.
      • Conservatorship: This is similar to guardianship but deals only with financial matters of an individual deemed unable to manage his/her own finances. The conservator must report to and seek approval from the court for expenditures but has no authority over other decision making in the individuals personal affairs.
      • Representative of Payee: This is considered less restrictive than guardianship or conservatorship. Individuals receiving SSI or SSDI may receive benefit checks directly or the checks can be sent to a representative payee who will assist the beneficiary with financial management and payment obligations. Court action is not needed to establish an RP but regular reports must be submitted to the Social Security Administration.
      • Power of Attorney: This is perhaps the least restrictive of options. If a person is a competent adult, he or she may authorize in a private written agreement, another individual to assume power of attorney. This agreement authorizes a person to enter into legal agreements and manage financial affairs in the name of the other person.

These are simply a few options to consider. For more information on guardianship and all of the considerations when your loved one turns 18, please visit the DSAGSL Website and the Alternatives to Guardianship Project.

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