Guardianship may enter the life of a senior citizen when they are found to be lacking the ability, or capacity as it is known in legal terminology, to manage their own affairs. A court may be needed to intervene and appoint a Guardian to serve as a substitute decision maker for a person.
There are two types of guardians that may be appointed by a court to make decisions:
- A guardian of the person who has the authority to make personal decisions for the protected person, including decisions regarding health care and living situations; and
- A guardian of the estate who has the authority to manage the protected person’s money and other property.
One person may be appointed as both the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate.
A guardianship attorney is able to assist in many aspects of the guardianship process, which is a paperwork intensive, court process. Their duties can include:
- Initiating hearings to determine competence;
- Setting up trusts for an adult family member with special needs;
- Annual reporting and accounting of assets and expenses; and
- Being the guardian of the protected person.
Guardianships are often the last choice in helping a loved one who may be impaired due to age or illness. In fact, many estate planning tools are set up to avoid the need for guardianship proceedings. But if the time does come for this intervention, a guardianship attorney helps guide families through protective proceedings.