Guardianship of an Intellectually or Developmentally Disabled Adult

In New York State, when a person turns 18 years old, they are assumed to be legally able to make decisions for themselves. This means that no other person is allowed to make personal, medical or financial decisions for them. This may present a problem if the person is intellectually or developmentally disabled and has difficulty making decisions for themselves.

If you are concerned about the well-being of an intellectually or developmentally disabled person who is 18 or over (or about to turn 18), you may want to consider asking the court to appoint an Article 17-A guardian. An Article 17-A guardian is someone who is appointed by a Surrogate Court judge to help protect the interests of an intellectually or developmentally disabled adult and make decisions for them, when they are unable to do so for themselves.

The intellectually or developmentally disabled adult will often have one of the following conditions:

  • cerebral palsy
  • epilepsy
  • a neurological impairment
  • autism
  • a traumatic head injury

The person asking the court to appoint a 17-A guardian (the petitioner) is typically a parent, guardian, or a close family member.

In New York State, Article 17-A Guardianship cases are heard in the Surrogate Court and filed underArticle 17-A of the Surrogate's Court Procedures Act.

Important Note: An Article 17-A guardianship is the most restrictive type of guardianship in the State of New York. It covers most decisions typically made by a parent for a child. For this reason, before pursuing an Article 17-A guardianship, families should explore whether other less restrictive options might help protect the intellectually or developmentally disabled adult while still allowing them to continue making certain decisions. Some of these options are: Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Supported Decision Making, and an Article 81 guardian.


YouTube DIY Forms Ask a Law Librarian