Before we get into the finer details of this estate planning topic, it’s important to fully understand what the word guardianship truly means.
The National Guardianship Association defines this as follows:
“Guardianship, also, referred to as conservatorship, is a legal process, utilized when a person can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about his/her person and/or property or has become susceptible to fraud or undue influence. Because establishing a guardianship may remove considerable rights from an individual, it should only be considered after alternatives to guardianship have proven ineffective or are unavailable.”
As you can see, even though the definition is clear, it covers quite a bit of ground. For this reason, you need to consider how guardianship pertains to you and your loved ones.
With so much to think about, the best thing you can do is focus on the questions that most closely pertain to your situation. While everybody is in a unique spot, these five questions are well worth considering:
- Are there any alternatives to guardianship?
Before you decide that guardianship is the right choice, there are a few alternatives to consider. These include but are not limited to:
- Living wills
- Durable powers of attorney
- Health care surrogacy
- Community agencies and services
In the end, you may find that guardianship is the best thing you can do. However, you don’t want to make this decision until you consider the pros and cons of every other option.
- How will the person under guardianship be affected?
Despite the many benefits of guardianship, it’s important to realize one thing: once a guardian is appointed, certain rights of the person under guardianship may be affected. These rights may be removed:
- Consent to medical treatment.
- Make decisions as to where they live.
- Sell or buy property.
- Obtain or maintain a driver’s license.
- Sign a contract.
- Own a weapon.
It’s important to keep this in mind, as many people don’t understand that guardianship can affect a person in these ways.
- What are the responsibilities of a guardian?
A person acting as a guardian is staffed with many high level responsibilities. In other words, this is not something to take lightly. Some of the most important responsibilities can include:
- Making decisions on where and how a person will live.
- Making end of life medical decisions.
- Monitoring finances and medical treatment.
- Filing required reports with the court in regards to the guardianship.
These responsibilities can eat up a lot of time, so it’s essential that a guardian is ready to take on anything that comes their way.
- How does a guardianship come to an end?
As you can imagine, a guardianship does not last forever. Generally speaking, there are three circumstances that lead to the end of a guardianship:
- When a child reaches the legal age of 18.
- When the person passes on.
- If the judge determines that the guardianship is no longer necessary.
Note: the guardian can also ask the court to relieve them of their duties.
- Do you need to choose a guardian for your child?
There is a lot that goes into estate planning. If you have minor children, you need to consider what would happen to them if you and your spouse are no longer able to provide care.
Choosing a guardian can put your mind at ease, as you’ll know that there is somebody to take over if you’re gone.
With all this in mind, you may have even more questions. Rather than run and hide, take the time to answer each question as thoroughly as possible.
If you need any advice, you may want to download our free report entitled “Fifteen Common Reasons To Do Estate Planning.”
It discusses a variety of details, many of which may relate to your current situation. Once complete, you’ll have a better idea of why now is the best time to move forward with estate planning.
It’s never easy to think about the many details pertaining to guardianship, but it’s something you have to do. Once you better understand the details, you can decide which steps to take next.