All You Need To Know About Elderly Guardianships

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Throughout your life, your parents are there looking after you, providing you with love and care, a safe environment, teaching you morals, discipline, and respect, while making sure you are as happy as can be. But as you get older, the roles are often reversed and you must provide your parents with that same love and care that you received.

Although many elderly people still think of themselves as fit and healthy, there comes a time when you will need to step in and help them out. When your parents age, they can sometimes lose the ability to think clearly for themselves which can affect how they make informed decisions. They may keep you in the dark about health issues, or if they have forgotten to pay any bills, and instead of finding out directly from your parent, you may hear it from a family friend or a neighbor which can leave you wondering why they didn’t tell you and if there is anything else they may be keeping from you.

More often than not, older people have difficulty accepting the fact they are aging and are unable to care properly for themselves. If your parent is unable to make clear, rational decisions when it comes to their health and finances, then you may need to think if now is it time for a guardianship?

In this post, we are going to look at what elderly guardianship is, the reasons why an elderly person may need one, the court process that is involved, and how to go about getting legal help.

Image Source 

What is guardianship?

Unfortunately, there are times when elderly people are unable to take care of themselves due to an illness, a disability, or advancing age, which could lead to them not remembering to take medication, manage their finances, or maintain regular hygiene. It is then considered in the elderly person’s best interest that someone is appointed by a court to act as their legal guardian or conservator.

In different states, a guardianship gives someone full control over where the elderly person lives, the type of healthcare they will receive and how their everyday needs are met. Whereas a conservatorship allows the person to manage the finances of the elderly person, like paying bills and budgeting.

In order to become someone’s legal guardian or conservator, you need to go to court and have the elderly person declared as incompetent. This will be based on expert’s findings, and if they are ruled incompetent then the court will hand over full responsibility to the guardian or conservator to manage finances, medical decisions, and living arrangements such as selling a property and finding a suitable nursing home.
The different types of guardianship

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, there are five types of guardianships which are outlined below:

Full Guardianship/Full Conservator – Someone who is responsible for the personal and financial needs of an elderly person. This means that a court has found the elderly person incapable of looking after themselves, all rights are removed except the right to vote, which is decided by the judge whether they retain this right.

Personal Guardian – Someone who is only responsible for looking after the elderly person’s personal affairs.

Conservator – This person is appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs of the elderly person.

Limited Guardian – If the elderly person is capable of partially looking after some of their personal needs, but may require some assistance with other aspects. The court will decide which rights they can keep and which are appointed to the limited guardian such as making medical decisions and where to live.

Limited Conservator – If an elderly person only needs help with managing some financial affairs, then a limited conservator will be appointed. This means the court will decide which civil rights the person can keep and which rights are given to the conservator, like the right to sell a property or sign legal documents. 

Who can be appointed guardian?

Generally, the person who is appointed guardianship is someone who is familiar with their needs, such as the person’s spouse, adult children, other members of their family, or sometimes a friend. However, there are times when a professional guardian or public guardian is appointed by the court if the person’s relatives are not qualified or willing to fulfill the guardian duties.

If the elderly person had a preference for who they wanted to appoint as guardian before their incapacitation, like a will, for example, this will be provided in court and will be factored into the decision.

Reasons why the elderly may need a guardian

The process of appointing a guardian is very serious, allowing someone to make the utmost important decisions of an elderly person’s life and to their best interest. There are several reasons why an elderly person may need a guardian such as if they have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or if they have a brain injury or another serious health condition.

There are times when elderly parents are unable to make an informed decision about their own care. Sometimes when elderly people have a serious medical condition it makes it hard for them to properly evaluate the information given to them by a healthcare professional, so it’s important that a guardian can communicate and relay the information from doctors or nurses to the elderly person.

You may have concerns about your parent if they are in a vulnerable state and live alone in an unsafe area, especially if they have a cognitive impairment. It’s best to seek guardianship in this type of scenario.
The guardian process in court

Most states will have their own requirements and processes. The court process for guardianship can be painful and prolonged and can cost a lot of money. There are cases where family members will disagree about things, like the need for a guardianship or who should be appointed.

During the hearing, the court must decide if the person who seeks guardianship is suitable for the role and if there is more than one person looking to become guardian, the court will need to decide who would be better suited for the role.

On occasion, the court may appoint one person to take responsibility to handle the financial side of things, and another person to deal with the elderly person’s medical decisions.
What does a guardian do?

Strictly speaking, a guardian has a duty of care and must put the best interests of the elderly person first. Guardians appointed by the court will have responsibilities for the elderly person including:

Deciding where they should live

Giving consent for any medical treatment they need

Handling finances and paying bills

Preparing budgets

Deciding on end-of-life-care

Handling any sale of real estate

Arranging social contact

Keeping the court informed annually of their guardianship status

The guardian or conservator should ask the elderly person for input where necessary. After a thorough investigation, the court can give a guardian limited or full authority to a guardian. But overall, the court will require financial accounting and reports regularly and if any important decisions are made, the court will need to know of these decisions.
The pros and cons to elderly guardianship

As with many situations, there are pros and cons to an elderly guardianship. When someone is unable to care for themselves, it is beneficial to have someone who ideally, is close enough to the person to be able to take good care of them and have their best interests at heart when they are unable to make life-changing decisions.

But there are some cons to guardianship as well. The costs involved in the court process can be quite expensive and requires many forms to be filled out. On top of this, you may be required to attend numerous court hearings, and if another family member is opposed to the guardianship, or even the elderly person themself, then it can be an emotionally and financially draining process.

An elderly person is losing some of their rights, even if they are in their best interest and that in itself will be difficult as it is essentially losing your independence. There is also no guarantee that a guardian will fulfill their duties.
Getting legal help

There are cases where people seek guardianship for a loved one without an attorney and initiate court proceedings. If this is the route you choose to take, research as much as you can online and at your local library in order to navigate the court proceedings efficiently.

However, it is recommended that if you are looking to petition for the guardianship of your parent or a loved one, consult a lawyer who will be able to inform you of the legal processes that are involved. As the process is complex, it’s best to seek advice from a lawyer who specializes in elder law.

Hopefully this post has given you more insight into how elderly guardianship works and has helped you to decide if you should proceed with the legal process.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket photo googleplus.png

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love reading and responding to comments but in order to get my reply you must ensure you are NOT a no-reply blogger. If you are, here are some quick steps to change that!

1. Go to the home page of your Blogger account.
2. Select the drop down beside your name on the top right corner and choose Blogger Profile.
3. Select Edit Profile at the top right.
4. Select the Show My Email Address box.
5. Hit Save Profile.