We have all thought about the issues surrounding our elderly parents or loved ones with mental and physical disabilities or incapacities. Many of us have thought about and have even set up power of attorney, but that only gives us the right to sign on behalf of our loved on in the event he or she is unable to do so. What happens, though, if our loved one is completely incapacitated and needs to be watched after, as we would watch our children? What are our legal remedies? The law provides for just such a scenario in the cases of guardianship and conservatorship.
A guardian is a person responsible for making decisions relating to another person who is not capable of making their own decisions. Most of us are accustomed to this word when speaking of their legal relationship to their child, or when dealing with doctors, schools, insurance, and permission in general. However, this term can also apply to a person appointed by the court to make decisions for an individual whom the court has deemed to be mentally or physically incapacitated. These decisions may relate to medical, health, and residential choices. A legally appointed guardian acts as a representative of the court and agrees to act in the best interest of the ward, or person for whom he or she is appointed. Many times a guardianship is appointed on a permanent basis, unless a person is expected to recover and regain the ability to make decisions for himself.
A conservator is like a guardian, except this person also maintains financial responsibility for their loved one when the court has determined the person in need is no longer able to make financial decisions without causing harm to his or her financial well being. A conservator will accept payments of debts on behalf of a loved one, make payments on their behalf, and assume all other aspects of financial responsibility. This type of appointment is often put in place for those who show a temporary or permanent mental incapacity.
Forming the Relationship
The legal process to become a guardian or conservator is not as difficult as one may believe. A person wishing to be appointed in either or both capacities for an individual must petition the court in the county in which the loved one resides. Then, the court will appoint an attorney for your loved one, unless you have provided one, and a hearing commences. Once the hearing is completed and you are appointed, you must file paperwork with the court, such as an inventory of your ward or protected person’s belongings. To protect your loved one, the courts tend to keep a close eye on your handling of finances to ensure everything is done for the best interest of the ward or protected person and to mitigate the risk of fraud.
Guardianship and conservatorship are not to be entered into lightly. The responsibility of taking care of a loved one who can no longer take care of himself is as important as taking care of a child. However, because you want the best for your loved ones, you are choosing to take this step. In order to make sure you are complying with the laws and are armed with an experienced legal professional, contact WL Brown Law Office at 612-309-9184.