Before your 18th birthday, your parents are your legal guardians.  This changes when you turn 18 and become an “adult” in Michigan.  


When you become an adult, things change legally.  Adults have legal rights- such as the right to manage your money; the right to keep your medical, school and other records private; to decide about your education; to decide where and how to live; to make health care decisions. 


Usually, when you become an adult, people who provide services to you, such as doctors, case managers, school people, or others will now look to you, instead of your parents, for permission and consent.  This could be consent to do a medical exam, or consent to release your records, or things like that.


Things may go on just as before, with the provider looking to you and your parents to work together for consent and permission issues.  If nothing changes in how providers work with you as an adult, then there is no need to rush to do anything.


But some providers might now require you, as an adult, to make decisions and provide permission and consent on your own.  This can get pretty complicated. If you need to have someone help you manage things, you will probably need to take some legal, formal action to continue to get those services.


Usually, all that is needed is for you to give a trusted person legal permission to help you.  This can be done as soon as you turn 18, and any time after that.  You do this by signing legal papers called “powers of attorney.” A trusted person must help you with this.


You should get legal help with powers of attorney. Generally, it can take a few days or a week or so to get these completed if you can show that you understand some basic ideas.  It’s never too early to start educating yourself about important concepts.  Talk to a trusted person about these ideas, for starters:


  • Adult

  • Waive rights


  • Agent

  • Power (or authority)

  • Financial

  • Knowing and voluntary

  • Privacy

In some cases, if you struggle with these ideas, and don’t feel that you can understand these types of documents, you may need a guardian. A guardianship should always be done as a last resort.


If a guardianship seems to be necessary, there’s no need to rush and do this automatically when you turn 18 unless circumstances demand it.  It can be done at any time.  Later on, you might be better able to understand those concepts, and if you can, you would not need a guardianship.  The bottom line is, as long as you are getting the services you need from doctors, the school, and your caseworker, and others, and as long as you have trusted people to support you in making important decisions, there’s no immediate need to do anything.


It usually takes at least a month to get a guardianship put into place.   Guardianships generally have to be renewed in court every five years.