By: Kevin R. Albaum
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.
Q: My father has difficulty living on his own. Does he need a guardian?
A: A common misconception exists that a guardianship is necessary whenever an aging adult experiences some level of incapacity or difficulty making personal, financial, or healthcare decisions. Subjecting a person to guardianship should be the last option, and it is often the most costly option. When you contemplate a guardianship for a friend or family member, ask yourself how you can help and protect the person in the least restrictive manner possible.
A meeting between concerned friends and family members can uncover support mechanisms already in place for safety and care and can expose any deficiencies. Alternatives to guardianship are available, including durable powers of attorney, revocable trusts, friends or family serving as representative payees for government benefits, hiring of a geriatric care manager, joint bank accounts, health care surrogates, and simple family and friend supervision and involvement. After exploring whether these options offset the incapacities of the aging adult, consult with an attorney to discuss initiating guardianship proceedings, wherein the court will determine the nature and extent of incapacity and appoint a guardian if appropriate. The scope of the guardian’s powers, if any, will depend on the extent of incapacity, which is determined primarily a court-appointed medical examining committee. The court and committee will explore and consider the least restrictive alternatives to guardianship, because guardianship may result in the aging adult losing rights to make his or her own decisions about travel, expenses, and other every day choices.
The May 21st edition of “The Law” will continue our coverage of National Elder Law Month with a discussion about the “probate” process that occurs when an individual dies without having specified beneficiaries for all assets.
Kevin Albaum is an estate planning and elder law attorney with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. and a proud member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). NAELA has designated May as National Elder Law Month to focus on educating seniors about legal options. NAELA and its member attorneys provide legal advocacy, guidance, and services to enhance the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. Questions can be submitted online to firstname.lastname@example.org.