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What to do when adult children become incapacitated adults

Upon turning 18, one of the last things a newly emancipated adult and his or her parents think about is what would happen if he or she ended up in the hospital, unable to make decisions regarding his or her health care and finances. However, the possibility of adult children becoming incapacitated adults does exist. Without an estate plan, gaining access to a child’s health care information and finances could require a trip to a Massachusetts court.

Since the child is now legally considered an adult, it may be necessary to be granted a guardianship and or conservatorship of the child — at least temporarily until he or she recovers. Having guardianship over an adult child allows medical personnel to share information regarding his or her condition. At the same time, the court-appointed guardian can make health care decisions as well.

If necessary, a Massachusetts parent may also apply to the court to be a conservator of an adult child’s financial affairs during the time he or she is incapacitated. The court would oversee and authorize all expenses, but at least they would be handled. Fortunately, these legal measures are available if needed.

Of course, it would be far easier to care for incapacitated adults if they had an estate plan. A durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney would eliminate the need to waste valuable time and resources going to court if something should happen to an adult child. However, it is good to know that a child will not languish in a hospital with no one to step in on his or her behalf.

Source:, “Matt Wallace: Making health care decisions for an adult child”, Matt Wallace, May 17, 2014


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