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Age of majority: What is it, and what changes?

Depending on the nature of your loved one’s disabilities, they may benefit from legal protections to prevent them from being taken advantage of. To make sure your loved one has the help they need, you could have yourself, a family member, or friend named as power or attorney, health care proxy, or legal guardian to help them with legal or medical events. There’re also trustees or representative payees, who can help with specific financial matters. It’s important to know which of these may be beneficial for your loved one after they’ve reached the age of majority.

What’s age of majority?

The "age of majority," is the age where your loved one is legally recognized as an adult. The specific age varies from state to state but is typically 18 years old.

Once your loved one reaches this age, they’re legally able to enter into contracts such as leases, car and home purchases, or other similar agreements. It’s important to evaluate your loved one’s ability to make those decisions on their own to know how you can help.

Having the right legal documents in place is an important step in caring for and protecting your loved one with disabilities or special needs, especially as they reach the age of majority.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a document granting authority to another person to make certain decisions on someone else’s behalf. If your loved one has a power of attorney appointed, that person’s authority ends when the person granting authority revokes it, becomes incapacitated, or dies. There’re also different levels of authority that can be granted to someone with power of attorney. The requirements for a valid power of attorney vary by state.

Durable vs. springing power of attorney

If you have durable power of attorney, that means you’ll have authority even if the person granting that authority becomes incapacitated. However, you don’t continue to have any authority if that person dies or formally revokes power. Alternatively, if you have non-durable power of attorney, you’ll lose your authority if the person granting that authority becomes incapacitated.

A springing power of attorney doesn’t go into effect right away, but automatically starts under certain specified conditions. That means you wouldn’t have any authority until the conditionsare met. These conditions typically include the person granting power of attorney becoming incapacitated.

General vs. limited power of attorney

If you have general power of attorney it applies to all affairs, such as opening financial accounts and managing personal finances.

A limited power of attorney means your authority only applies to certain assets or accounts owned, such as granting authority to sell a home.

Health care proxy

If you have a health care proxy, it grants you authority to make medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf when they’re not able to communicate their decisions on their own. The health care proxy ends when the person granting authority revokes it or dies.

Guardian or conservator

A legal guardian is someone legally chosen to be responsible for caring for your loved one’s personal and financial interests. These are common for minor children or adult children with disabilities. The person under the care of a legal guardian is usually called a ward. While conservator and guardian tend to be used interchangeably, their definitions can vary from state to state.


A trustee is a person or institution that is legally the owner of a trust. This means that they’re responsible for managing the assets placed in the trust and need to act according to the terms of the trust documentation.

Representative payee

A representative payee is a person or organization appointed by the Social Security Administration to receive Social Security or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits for your loved one if they can’t manage or direct the management of their own benefits.

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This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.