If an individual is having trouble taking care of his own personal needs or managing his financial resources (including the declining ability to resist fraud or undue influence) he will need someone else to step in and manage things for him.
IF the individual has a properly executed Advance Directive for Health Care (designating an “agent” to make health care decisions for him) and a properly executed Durable Power of Attorney (designating an “agent” to pay all his bills and manage his money and other assets), it will be the person designated by the individual in the directive. (Or, if an individual is no longer able to manage his finances and has a revocable trust in place, the trustee of the trust will be the successor manager of many of the individual’s finances which are held in the trust.)
However, if the individual does NOT have appropriate estate planning documents in place, loved ones will be forced to go to court and get a “guardian” appointed for the individual, and maybe two: one, to manage the individual’s financial affairs, and one to establish the individual’s residence and make health care decisions for him.
The guardianship proceeding can be lengthy and costly depending upon how many family members and other interested parties get involved and what those people’s interests are in the outcome of the proceeding; sometimes they are in the best interests of the individual – sometimes they are not! The individual may also resist the guardianship, making an already uncomfortable process even harder. Then, once the guardianship is established, there are ongoing reporting and accounting requirements to the court which make sense, but can sometimes feel burdensome depending upon the guardian’s comfort level with paperwork and deadlines.
A guardianship can be avoided with the appropriate estate-planning documents. Please call me for an initial consultation to either determine if your existing documents do what you want them to do for you in the event of your disability or to prepare the appropriate documents, toot sweet!