Establishing Guardianship with Your Estate Planning Attorney
I have recently noticed a trend among younger individuals – it’s just not the elderly that are beginning to think about protecting their assets. Whether the reason is education, economy or the overall increased high net worth in my geographic area, my estate planning client base seems to be trending younger in age. I love to see this increased awareness in financial responsibility. Another result of this trend is increased inquisitions about the laws regarding guardianships. My “50 something” clients have parents that are at the age where guardianships become most relevant.
When I meet with clients who are concerned about a parent who is ill, elderly or just losing mental capacity, most often they ask informational questions about how to become a guardian, the responsibilities of the guardian and how someone is actually appointed guardian. Here’s the skinny….
Establishing a guardianship is a means to protect financial and legal interests of an adult, an elderly person or a minor who cannot manage their affairs themselves. In order to be appointed guardian, you will have to go to court. A judge will decide if guardianship is necessary based on the opinion of a panel of medical personnel. If indeed guardianship is deemed necessary, the judge will decide who is the appropriate guardian based on a best interest standard. The court will take its time on this decision as taking away someone’s rights is obviously not taken lightly by the judicial system. Finally, responsibilities will be delegated to the appointed guardian. Responsibilities are separated into two groups: financial affairs (paying the bills, investment decisions, etc.) and personal affairs (health care, living arrangements, etc.).
Although it is not mandatory, I highly recommend contacting an experienced guardianship/elderly care attorney to guide you through this process. Legal counsel can be especially helpful when proving to a medical panel and judge that you are the proper guardian and when trying to fend off others who may object to your request.