Many of us have a loved one or friend that is becoming more forgetful – we often poke fun at ourselves by calling these absent-minded moments a “senior moment.” But when memory loss becomes a persistent occurrence, and begins to create problems, it is no longer a joking matter.
As our parents age – when they lose the ability to think clearly- it affects his or her ability to participate in meaningful decision-making. The warning signs of trouble may include unpaid bills, notices from bill collectors, utilities being shut off, unopened mail and lack of personal grooming or an unkempt house.
These warning signs may indicate that it might be necessary to seek a Guardianship. It may be the best option to keep your loved one safe.
But what is Guardianship and what do you need to know about it?
A Guardianship is a legal proceeding in the Probate Courts in which a Guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person.
A legal Guardian is a person who has the legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a “Ward.” A Guardian has the power to make decisions for the Ward, even if they are decisions that the Ward does not like. A Guardian has total control over the person they are appointed to serve. Sadly, it strips your loved one of many legal rights. But it might be the only way you can gain the legal authority to make decisions and carry out many essential tasks that he or she is no longer able to handle, such as protecting and managing finances, where they will live and what medical care is necessary.
A Guardian can only be appointed if the Court hears evidence that the person lacks mental capacity to make decisions concerning all areas of their life. The person alleged to be incapacitated has a right to an attorney and to object to the appointment of his or her guardian or conservator.
If you are appointed Guardian, you may have the following responsibilities:
- Determine where the Ward will reside;
- Monitor that residence;
- Provide consent to medical treatments;
- Make financial decisions concerning the types of financial benefits the Ward needs;
- Release confidential information;
- Keep records of all expenditures;
- Make end-of-life decisions;
- Maximize independence in least restrictive manner; and
- Report to the Court about the Guardianship status at least annually.
The decision to pursue Guardianship is a serious one, but it remains one of the best ways to protect those, who, without it, could be abused and/or victimized.
As the same time you seek Guardianship, you may wish to pursue Conservatorship, which is the legal control of financial matters. You can apply for both or just one of these legal appointments. A Conservatorship provides the Conservator with authority to make financial decisions. The Ward’s property will be inventoried and appraised and reports will be provided to the court. A bond for the Conservator may be required to protect the assets of the Ward.
If you are considering a Guardianship/Conservatorship of your loved one, call our experienced attorneys to set up an appointment at 314/962-0186.