The Basics of Being a Guardian

August 9, 2016

Seniors who have memory issues like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will come to a point where they can no longer make important decisions. They may show signs of inability to pay bills, act on medical needs, or generally think with a clear head. When this happens, it’s important for someone near to them to establish guardianship. What is this important legal step? Read on.


Understanding Guardianship

Let’s say your father lives alone and has a pile of months-old bills on his kitchen table. When you go to visit, you’ll see said pile and immediately want to spring into action. This is just one sign that the senior may benefit from moving to a memory care community. You’ll need access to your dad’s bank and utility accounts to ensure the bills are paid. Do you have all this information? Even if you do, you may be unable to make financial transfers because you are not an account executor. If you become your father’s guardian, you will be able to make this type of important decision and have access to such accounts.

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Establishing Guardianship

You can’t simply declare that you are a senior’s guardian to earn this crucial role. To legally make this move, it’s necessary for the individual’s doctor to declare the person incompetent. Then, in writing, this information must be passed on to the senior’s attorney. He or she can then deem someone as the senior’s guardian. Not just anyone can earn this role; you must first file for guardianship at the local probate court nearest the senior’s residence. You’ll then work with an attorney to ensure licensed psychologists evaluate the senior’s abilities and shortcomings. Next, the court will examine the exam results and doctors’ notes to determine if a guardian is necessary.

“Family members typically take on the role of guardian.”

This position is typically given to a family member who has been actively involved in the senior’s life to ensure his or her well-being. However, not everyone has a relative who can step into this role, so some seniors refer to a friend, neighbor, or specially trained professional who is unrelated but understands how to undertake the duties of guardianship.


The Future

After a senior acquires a guardian, he or she can no longer make certain decisions. For example, the guardian will be in charge of a healthcare directive, making choices like medicine changes with the help of a doctor. The guardian will control bank accounts or other assets, such as homes and properties. Guardians may be required to show they are caring for their loved one on a yearly basis in the form of a report. Elder Law Answers notes that people should apply for guardianship only if the senior in question needs more assistance than is provided for with the help of a power of attorney, a representative or protective payee, a conservatorship, or the creation of a living trust.

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