Guardianship is a tool to protect an individual when they are not able to manage their own affairs. Guardianship, however, involves taking away an individual’s rights to make their own decisions. Therefore, guardianship should only be used as a last resort.

In cases where an individual is able to maintain a certain degree of autonomy, but may need some help in certain areas, less restrictive alternatives than guardianship exist to allow individuals to retain a larger degree of freedom.

Setting up a joint bank account can allow a concerned person to help monitor and manage an individual’s daily financial affairs. An even less invasive option is to help someone set up automatic bill paying features to make sure that necessary payments get made.

Powers of attorney allow for a trusted individual to make specific decisions on behalf of an individual under certain circumstances. Different types of powers of attorney can be used for different types of decisions. Powers of attorney relating to financial or property matters can be drafted to have anywhere from a relatively narrow scope to having a broad range of powers to manage an individual’s affairs. Powers of attorney relating to health care decisions are often separate documents that allow for someone to make health care decisions for an individual if the individual is unable to give informed consent or has become incapacitated.

The precise language of a power of attorney is extremely important to make sure the document conveys only necessary powers and when those powers may be used. Powers of attorney should only be drafted by an experienced lawyer to make sure that the document fits a specific client’s needs.

A special needs trust or ABLE account can also help a disabled individual maintain a degree of independence. Both special needs trusts and ABLE accounts can provide a disabled individual with support while maintaining eligibility for means-tested government benefits. If government benefits are not a consideration or if the individual in question is not legally disabled, a more general trust may be set up to support the individual. An experienced special needs attorney is needed to determine what the best support vehicle is for an individual client’s needs and to carefully draft any needed documents.

To discuss support options for you or your family, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.