We’ve all seen those tragic turned inspirational movies where parents die and leave behind an orphan – insert just about any Disney movie. Sometimes it’s a more thought-provoking flick where an adult has lost their ability to care for themselves. Either way, this is a tale as old as time, yet so little is known about guardianship.
A “guardian” is someone who is chosen or appointed to make legal decisions for another person who is unable to make those decisions on their own. Guardianship can be over a child or an individual who has become incapacitated through age or disability.
Different Types of Guardianships
Many people assume that a guardian is someone who simply cares for someone who is unable to care for themselves. That is not the case. There are actually two types of guardians and guardianships. We commonly think of a guardian as someone who is appointed to care for the well-being of an individual; guardian of the person. There may also be a guardian of the estate, who is appointed to manage that individual’s property. The incapacitated individual is referred to as the ward by the courts.
Guardian of the Person
A guardian of the person is authorized to make decisions involving the life and person of the ward, including health care decisions and place of residence. This guardian is tasked to oversee the ward’s personal care, medical care, maintenance and support. As stated above, guardianship can be over a child or an individual who has become incapacitated through age or disability. But what does that mean, specifically?
Guardian of the Estate
A guardian of the estate is someone who attends to the ward’s financial affairs. They can be the same or different from the guardian of the person. Their duty is to manage, protect, preserve and dispose of the ward’s estate in the ward’s best interests, in accordance with the law. The guardian isresponsibleto use the estate assets to provide for the care and maintenance of the ward. Generally, the guardian is granted the authority to make decisions on the ward’s property and estate as if it was their own. The court is responsible for settling conflicts between the two. Ultimately, the court will side with whatever is in the ward’s best interests.
Why Legal Representation is Important
There is no telling what the future holds, so establishing guardians for you and your children is not something to be put off. Consult an attorney and get started on the legal documents that put your own wishes into place. Verbal discussions amongst family and friends is not enough to protect you and your loved ones from an unexpected outcome.
If you are considering becoming a guardian, it is equally important to consult an attorney. The process is tedious and can be very expensive. It is wise to consult an attorney before going down the road of becoming a guardian, as there may be better alternatives out there for everyone involved.