When we think of the term “guardianship,” we typically picture someone tasked with caring for a child.
But what happens when an adult needs a guardian? It’s the type of question an elder law attorney in Bucks County is often asked.
So, let’s look at why an adult – especially a senior citizen – might need a guardian – and what that person’s duties could entail.
Why are guardians necessary?
Guardians are appointed when someone is no longer able to communicate their decisions or receive and decipher information.
This could be due to an illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s, or a condition such as ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease – which keep people from being able to communicate and make decisions that affect their health and well-being.
Some states have two distinct types of guardian:
- Guardian of the person, which is someone with the authority to make decisions covering every aspect of their ward’s – the person who needs a guardian – life, including decisions pertaining to housing and medical care.
- Guardian of the estate, which is someone who manages the ward’s financial affairs, pays bills, invests money and applies for benefits.
In some states, these two roles are combined. And the terminology might be different depending on whether you live. For example, in California, a “conservator” is someone who acts as both guardian of the person and the estate.
In either case, a guardianship is important. It means you’ve agreed to speak for a person who can’t speak for themselves, to protect them from abuse and neglect, and make sure their needs are cared for.
How is a guardian appointed?
A guardian will be appointed after a court hears evidence that the person can no longer make informed decisions. The ward has the right to have an attorney and to object to the appointment. Consult with an elder law attorney in Bucks County if your family is weighing whether to appoint a guardian.
Who can serve as a guardian?
At this hearing, the court will decide if the person asking for guardianship is right for the job. It may be that more than one person is seeking the guardianship.
The ward’s preferences, and any legal documents put together in advance – such as a living will or power of attorney – might help the court decide.
The court may give preference to a spouse or family members, since they are familiar with the ward’s needs. If family members are unwilling or unable to serve, the judge can appoint a professional guardian or public guardian.
What does a guardian do?
Depending on the ward’s level of incapacitation, the guardian will need to:
- Determine where the ward will live and keep an eye on their residence.
- Provide consent for medical treatment and for non-medical services such as counseling
- Decide who assets will be invested
- Manage real estate
- Pay bills and keeps track of all expenditures
- Report to the court about their guardianship
- Make end-of-life decisions
Is your family wrestling with how to best care for an older family member? It’s time to talk to an elder law attorney in Bucks County.
Trust the experts at Newman Elder Law to guide you through the guardianship process to ensure that the right decisions are being made for your loved ones. Contact us today, and we’ll help you rest assured that your family members interests are being looked after.