Helping Families Establish Guardianships
As we age, there is an increased risk that dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, other illnesses or an accident may leave a person unable to make sound decisions regarding their health care or financial matters. If a person lacks the capacity to sign the necessary legal documents, the only alternative is for someone to ask the court to establish a legal guardianship to permit a trusted individual appointed by the court — usually a family member or close friend — to make decisions for the benefit of the incapacitated person. It is vital to discuss this sensitive issue with an experienced lawyer.
I am elder law and estate planning attorney Joe Gruner. I help families establish legal guardianships when there is a concern that a loved one is unable to make medical decisions or manage their finances independently. Many times, establishing a guardianship can be avoided when an individual signs a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy or a revocable trust as part of his or her estate plan. If this has not been done, however, the only available solution is to ask the court to establish a guardianship.
What Does a Guardianship Accomplish?
Establishing a legal guardianship can be an important step to prevent physical, psychological or financial abuse of an incapacitated person. The person the court appoints as the legal guardian of the incapacitated person (also known as the ward) is required to help in the care of that person, who is known as the ward. Once appointed by the court, the guardian has the authority to:
Manage all of the ward’s finances and assets
Purchase or arrange for the purchase of food, clothing, housing and other daily necessities for the ward
Direct the medical care and long-term care for the ward
Manage the living arrangements of the ward, at home or in a facility, if necessary
I also handle guardianship cases in which someone who has been given the power of attorney has abused his or her position for personal financial gain. Since beginning my career in 1974, I have helped many families deal with these matters to help create the proper support structure for a loved one.