A guardian is a surrogate decision-maker appointed by the court to make either personal and/or financial decisions for a minor or for an adult with mental or physical disabilities. Guardianship may enter the lives of the elderly or infirmed if they lose the capacity to handle their own affairs. But guardianship is often the last resort, as it is taking away the personal rights of an individual, as well as allowing a personal issue to be aired within the public record of a court proceeding.
Rather than resorting to a guardianship, less intrusive alternatives should be considered before it becomes an issue or in lieu of a guardianship proceeding.
- Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power-of-attorney is in force even if a person becomes incapacitated. A durable power-of-attorney lets a person choose who will act on their behalf if he or she can no longer handle either finanical or personal affairs, therefore, the ‘attorney-in’fact’ that is designated must be someone who is totally trustworthy.
- Advance Medical Directive – An advance medical directive allows a person to select another person who will act as their agent in making health care decisions when the individual cannot make their own decisions.
- Living Trust – A trust is a powerful estate planning tool. Property is transferred into the ownership of the trust and put in the control of a trustee for the benefit of the individual. Although the trustee controls the funds, the trust document dictates how the money is to be handled and for whose benefit it should be spent. If a person’s funds are in a trust and the trustee is reliably paying the person’s bills, there may be no need for a financial guardian.
Having an estate plan in place can help avoid a guardianship proceeding should you or a loved one need assistance later in life, but should this become necessary, a guardianship attorney can assist with the process.