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Don’t fall for these common guardianship misconceptions

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Family Law |

As our loved ones age, there may come a point when they’re unable to make decisions for themselves. This can be difficult to deal with on an emotional level, as it can be painful to see those individuals we care about suffer from declining health, but one of these situations can also put your loved one at risk of physical, emotional, psychological, and financial harm if you’re not careful. That’s why it might be a good idea for you to seek guardianship of your loved one.

What does guardianship do?

If you secure guardianship over your aging loved one, then you’ll be appointed by the court to make decisions on your loved one’s behalf and in their best interests. As guardian, then, you’ll be responsible for caring for your loved one, and you’ll have to periodically report to the court so that the judge knows that you’re adhering to your responsibilities.

While that might sound straightforward, guardianships and the process to secure them is often misunderstood. That’s why we want to devote the rest of this post to some of the most common misconceptions about guardianships, that way you can make the decision that’s best for you and your loved one.

Common misconceptions about guardianships

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about guardianships. If you believe some of these falsehoods, then you could be deterred from taking the action needed to protect someone you care about. With that in mind, here are some of the most common guardianship misconceptions that you should be aware of:

  • The court will appoint a relative: Although the court often prefers to appoint a close family member to serve as guardian, there’s no guarantee that’s how it’ll play out in your case. If there are complicated family dynamics that are characterized by conflicts of interest, then the court may look for a more distant relative to serve as guardian, or the judge may appoint someone who is unrelated to serve in that role.
  • Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s needs a guardianship: A guardianship may help protect a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, but it’s not required. In fact, many individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s experience periods of lucidity that allow them to function and make critical decisions about their health and finances. Also, a guardianship may not be necessary if your loved one is surrounded by informal supports to help them get by.
  • A guardianship is static and lasts forever: Guardianships can provide you and your loved one with some flexibility. If you want, you can have the court curtail your guardianship powers, and they can be modified over time if deemed necessary. Also, if the guardianship no longer becomes necessary, then you or your loved one can file a motion to terminate the guardianship.
  • A guardianship is necessary to protect wealth: A lot of people make the mistake of confusing guardianships with powers of attorney. The latter gives you limited ability to make certain decisions about healthcare or finances, while a guardianship grants you broader power and is more restrictive on your loved one. So, if you’re worried about protecting your loved one’s best interests, then you should fully consider the best course of action taking into consideration all estate planning tools that may be available.

Learn more about the guardianship process

Taking steps toward establishing a guardianship is a major decision. That’s why it’s critical that you fully understand the process. That way you know what to expect and how best to navigate it for your loved one’s interests. If you need assistance educating yourself about adult guardianships, then please continue to read our blog and our website.