When a teen turns 18, he or she automatically becomes his or her own legal guardian regardless of mental health or cognitive impairments, unless the court has appointed a legal guardian.
At age 18, the youth should be signing his or her own consents for procedures, authorizations, release of information, discharge instructions or other legal forms. Some youth with cognitive or mental health impairments are unable to make their own financial and medical decisions and need legal guardians.
If there are concerns at 14 years old that the youth will be unable to make his or her own financial and medical decisions as an adult, goals should be incorporated into the individualized education plan to help develop decision-making skills. Decision-making skills should be assessed annually. If there are concerns at 16 or 17 years old that the youth will be unable to make his or her own financial and medical decisions as an adult, a competency assessment will need to be completed. Contact a social worker to help initiate this process.
"Incompetent" is described by the State of Wisconsin as the level at which a youth is impaired in providing for his or her own care or custody, has diminished level of functioning in aspects of daily living and is unable to make his or her own informed and educated decisions due to a delay, disability or incapacity.