It’s never easy to see an elderly parent reaching the stage in life when they need help to manage their day-to-day affairs. Perhaps it’s their advanced age, a debilitating disease, dementia or a disability that prevents them from completing even the most basic tasks. That’s when it’s likely time to appoint a legal guardian.
“Guardian” and “ward” are legal terms used to identify the person who protects (guardian), and the person being protected (ward). If you are considering a guardian for a loved one, an experienced lawyer may be just what you need to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure that your loved one is cared for.
What are the Types and Duties of an Adult Guardian?
Guardianship of the Person: This person is responsible for managing the ward’s healthcare and medical needs. This could include setting up and attending medical appointments with the ward, handling health insurance issues, paying medical bills, coordinating with nursing homes, etc.
Guardianship of the Estate: Sometimes referred to as a Guardian of Property, this guardian handles the ward’s finances and assets. Some responsibilities may include monitoring bank accounts, filing taxes, managing real estate properties, and more.
Plenary Guardianship: This guardian covers all the above responsibilities – personal and financial.
How is an Adult Guardian Appointed?
Appointing a guardian removes nearly all a person’s rights, so the court should take great care in making sure that the person truly is incapacitated. The person seeking guardianship must file a petition with the court and appear before a judge, who will assess the ward’s incapacity or disability. If convinced that the person needs a guardian, the judge will appoint one. In effort to make sure guardians are fulfilling their duties, the courts require guardians to report periodically on the ward’s health and financial situations.
Any advanced planning that can be helpful?
Yes. If possible, sit down with your elderly family member while they are still able to make sound decisions and discuss who they would want to be their guardian, should that need ever occur. You can work with an experienced attorney to draft a durable power of attorney, which would give guidance to the court and ensure that your loved one’s handpicked successor would be able to step in when needed.