What is guardianship and how do you avoid it?

Guardianship is a court procedure in which an individual is appointed to make certain decisions for another person (the “ward”). The purpose of a guardianship is to protect or assist an individual who, due to mental incapacity, is unable to make decisions, defend him or herself against exploitation, or otherwise provide for his or her needs.

The proposed ward may require a guardian of the estate and/or a guardian of the person.  A guardian of the estate handles the ward’s financial matters, similar to a power of attorney for finances, whereas the guardian of the person handles day-to-day matters such as the ward’s living arrangements, medical care, etc.  In addition, the person petitioning the court to appoint a guardian for the proposed ward may request a temporary or permanent guardianship.  A temporary guardianship can generally be established within a few weeks and lasts for sixty days, with up to one sixty-day extension.  A permanent guardianship, on the other hand, remains in effect until removed by the court.  In order to establish a guardianship, the proposed ward must be found legally incompetent by two physicians or one physician and one psychologist.

The ultimate goal of a guardianship is to impose as few restrictions on the ward as possible (i.e., remove as few of the ward’s rights as possible), while also ensuring that his or her needs are being met.  However, even the most minimally restrictive guardianships results in the loss of some of the ward’s rights.  One way to prevent a guardianship from becoming necessary is to plan ahead and execute a Financial Durable Power of Attorney and Power of Attorney for Healthcare.  These documents will usually provide the principal’s power of attorney or health care agent with sufficient authority to protect or provide for the principal’s needs without petitioning the court to establish a guardianship, thereby avoiding the time and expense of a court proceeding.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Attorney Emily E. Ames at eames@llattorneys.com or (920) 393-1190.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not intended as legal advice from Lin Law LLC or the individual author.  Please consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction for information regarding your individual situation. 

Posted in Elder Law & Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning.