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When Does a Guardianship Become Necessary?

There are few things more stressful than your loved one reaching a point where they need a legal guardianship to help protect them. If that happens, you will need to act quickly to ensure they receive the legal and financial protections that a guardianship affords them. But when exactly does guardianship become necessary, and what should you do if you have reached that point?

What is a Guardianship?

Put simply, a guardianship is a type of legal relationship imposed by a court that places one person (known as a guardian) in charge of the personal and/or financial affairs of another person (known as a ward). A guardian of the person has the legal responsibility to care for the ward, ensure their needs are taken care of and make appropriate medical decisions on behalf of their ward. A guardian of the property has the legal responsibility to manage the ward’s finances, pay the ward’s bills and preserve the ward’s assets to the extent possible. A single guardian can be appointed to perform all of these responsibilities and be granted the authority to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on behalf of the ward.

How Does a Guardianship Help the Ward?

A plenary guardian appointed for both the person and property helps the ward in three primary ways. First, the guardian is able to handle any financial matters on behalf of the ward, including paying their bills. Second, the guardian can sign legal documents on their behalf, and make decisions regarding any of the ward’s legal matters that may arise. Finally, the guardian can make important medical decisions, including giving informed consent for medical tests or procedures.

When Should You Get a Guardianship?

A guardianship may become necessary if someone becomes seriously ill or injured and does not have a power of attorney, health care proxy, or other similar documents to determine who should make important decisions on their behalf. It may also become necessary for someone who suffers from a serious chronic or developmental issue, as well as someone who suffers from a severe psychological breakdown. It is also often used to help elderly loved ones who are suffering from dementia and are unable to handle matters on their own anymore.

What Should You Do if You Reach That Point?

If you have reached a point where guardianship of a relative becomes necessary, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling guardianship law matters. They can assist you with your case and help you determine your next best steps. The sooner you call, the sooner they can get to work on your behalf.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, and Sweeney understand that the aging population has specific and diverse needs. The firm helps seniors and their families by handling all aspects of elder law including guardianships, end of life planning, asset preservation, Medicaid planning, and trusts and estates issues. If you need to consult on elder law issues, call The Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney at (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form for a consultation.

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