Guardianship is a court-appointed legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. The law uses guardianship is a legal remedy in several ways:
- Caring for a senior citizen or adult who is suffering from a debilitating illness such as dementia and can no longer take care of their affairs
- Guardianship of a child,
- Guardianship of a developmentally disabled adult,
- Caring for a severely injured adult unable to make their own decision due to a severe accident
- When a court declares a person incompetent and removes their rights to make their own decisions
Guardianship may become necessary for individuals who have suffered an incapacitating physical or mental illness or injury. It is also an important consideration regarding the rights of minors when a parent can no longer act on behalf of the child. Minor children may require guardianship due to abandonment, incapacity, or death of the parent.
Who can be a Legal Guardian?
A guardian can be a relative, friend, or a court-appointed fiduciary. The responsibilities of the guardian can range from managing finances to making critical health care decisions. The two main types of guardianship are guardianship of the person and guardianship of the property.
Guardianship of the person allows the guardian to consent to both medical and non-medical services. As the guardian of the person, the appointed fiduciary may make decisions about the incapacitated person’s living arrangement, including decisions about placement into a nursing home or assisted living.
Guardianship of the property allows the guardian to manage and protect the incapacitated person’s assets and property. The guardian may pay debts and manage monthly expenses. They may also apply for government benefits such as Medicaid and veteran’s pensions.
The court may grant both designations to the guardian. The law requires the submission of annual reports.
Guardianship for incapacitated seniors
Courts often name adult children or another close relative as a guardian of an aging parent or loved one. There are many reasons why a guardian might be required, including becoming incapacitated, such as after a stroke. Other medical issues might not be so immediate, or as manifest, such as the beginning stages of dementia.
Senior citizens are often the target for scams, con-artist, or unscrupulous financial advisors. They are adept at exploiting those that cannot defend themselves. In cases like these, a guardianship proceeding may be initiated even without the consent of the potential ward.
These are difficult decisions to make as our loved-ones age and are no longer be able to care for themselves. We will explain the law and work with you to help decide on the best course of action.
Guardianship of a developmentally disabled adult
Once a person reaches the age of majority, the law says they have the right and authority to make all legal, medical, and financial decisions on their own. Unfortunately, for many families, they have children with severe issues, whether related to issues from birth, a severe medical condition, or due to a severe and debilitating accident. As adults, people suffering from any of these conditions will not be able to care for themselves and might never be able to.
A legal guardian will need to be appointed by the courts to grant the rights that the individual is unable to delegate on their own.
Guardianship of a child
While a child’s parents are their natural guardians and can make all decisions for them while they are minors, there are times when the parents are not able to fulfill this role. They might not be able to act as parents due to some form of incapacitation or untimely death. Whether the parents have named a legal guardian in their will or the court appoints one, the guardianship order will come from the court.
Guardianship of an incapacitated adult
It is unfortunate when an adult suffers an accident or some form of disabling incident where they are no longer able to care for or make decisions for themselves. When this happens, and the adult has minor children they are caring for, the issues of guardianship become more complex.
Call The Law Offices of Nicole Zuvich
Call our office at 516-880-9988 to discuss all of your guardianship issues. At the Law Offices of Nicole Zuvich, our lawyers and staff can assist in the initial application to the court. We will also assist you with the ongoing reporting requirements.
We encourage everyone over the age of 18 to have advance directives. Advance directives include Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will. These are essential documents to have before tragedy strikes, as the guardianship process can be time-consuming, intrusive, and expensive.