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A Quick Guide to Adult Guardianship

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By the year 2050, experts estimate that Americans aged 65 will grow to about 88 million. This means more adult children will seek help in providing personal care to their aging loved ones.

When an elderly parent can’t make their own decisions due to disability or advancing age, you might want to consider guardianship. They can make rational decisions regarding the older adult’s health and financial affairs that are in their best interest. You don’t want to go blind in this process, especially when your elder loved one’s twilight years are at stake. Ensure you consult an elder law firm for legal guardianship assistance and know how this can benefit them in the long run.

What Is a Court-Appointed Guardian?

A court-appointed guardian is a substitute decision-maker designated by the court for the elderly who cannot take care of themselves. Generally, the people who can petition the court to assign a guardian are the older adult themselves, their spouses, a relative or friend, or a government agency.

There are two kinds of guardianships, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary guardianship is established for a mentally competent older adult but cannot manage their estate. On the other hand, involuntary guardianship is for a person who cannot decide for themselves due to dementia or other reasons.

Any adult related to the elderly can serve as their guardian. But the exceptions are those incapable of executing the duties of a guardian or those convicted of a crime. The courts can also appoint professional individuals or a non-profit corporation as guardians. However, a bank trust can only act as guardians of the elderly’s property.

As the appointed carer of the older person, a guardian should put the interests of their ward first. They are in charge of deciding where the elder will live, making sure they take their medications, preparing their budget and finances, and investing their property prudently. They should use it for the elder’s support and care through filing annual reports in the court.

Benefits of Guardianship

One of the main advantages of adult guardianship is the stability it offers to the elderly person. The guardian helps manage and protect the person’s income and assets, especially from predatory acquaintances or family members who are only after the person’s wealth. Since financial elder abuse is a major problem nowadays, guardianships help address this issue and protect the elderly.

Here are some benefits of having guardianship for an elderly person:

Alternatives to Guardianships

Despite being beneficial, guardianship also has drawbacks like limited fundamental rights and freedom per the guardian’s decisions. Since the guardian has all the decision-making power, they can be overprotective or dominating, affecting the elder’s privacy. Fortunately, here are some less restrictive alternatives to guardianship:

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a delegation of authority made by a mentally sane person to another person. It can be used to authorize the management of an estate or bank account and remains valid even if the grantor dies or becomes legally incapacitated.

Joint Bank Accounts

This type of arrangement involves the courts legally joining the elder’s financial investments and bank accounts with another person. This allows either party to make withdrawals or sign checks, and the jointly owned assets can be automatically passed to the survivor if one joint owner dies.

Most elders set up joint accounts by adding a relative or friend as a joint owner to allow them to take care of the elder’s financial obligations. However, if the joint owner is unwilling to help with the elder’s financial obligations, the court will decide that their bank account is not considered an alternative to guardianship.

Living Trust

A living trust is a formal delegation of financial management to a trustee, but it cannot grant authority on medical decisions. It can only be accepted in court as a guardianship alternative when it pertains to trust assets. The court should designate the elderly person’s guardian to make the decisions regarding medical care.

When an aging parent or relative cannot make decisions for themselves due to physical or mental deterioration, guardianship can be beneficial to help manage their care. By making sure they take their medications and manage their finances, a guardian can help deliver the proper care your elderly loved one deserves.

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