LegalJourney Blog

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Basics of Guardianships (Conservatorships)

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. A tragic accident. A sudden, devastating illness. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a loved one became incapacitated and unable to take care of himself? While many associate incapacity with a comatose state, an individual, while technically functioning, may be considered incapacitated if he cannot communicate through speech or gestures and is unable sign a document, even with a mark. In some cases, an individual may have no trouble communicating, but may not be able to fully appreciate the consequences of their decisions and hence may be deemed to lack capacity. With proper incapacity planning which includes important legal documents such as a durable power of attorney, healthcare proxy and living will, the individuals named in such documents are empowered to make necessary financial and medial decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person without obtaining additional legal authorization. Without proper incapacity planning documents, even a spouse or adult child cannot make financial and healthcare decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual. In such cases, a guardianship (or conservatorship) proceeding is necessary so that loved ones are able to provide for their financial and medical healthcare needs.

A guardianship is a court proceeding where a judge appoints a responsible individual to take care of the adult in question and manage his or her finances and make medical decisions. Once appointed by the court, the guardian will take over the care of the ward (disabled adult). When appropriate, the court may designate an individual “guardian of the assets” to handle the disabled person’s financial needs and another person “guardian of the person” to manage his healthcare needs. One person can also serve as both. If you are planning to serve as someone’s financial guardian, be prepared to possibly post a bond that serves as a safeguard for the ward’s estate.

To minimize the incidence of mismanagement or fraud, the court holds the guardian legally responsible for providing it with regular reports, called an accounting. Additionally, the guardian may not be able to make any major life or medical decisions without the court’s approval and consent. For example, if you have been named the guardian for a relative, you may not be able to sell his or her house without the approval of the court.

The best safeguard to avoid going through court to get a guardianship would be to establish a durable power of attorney over your finances and healthcare, authorizing a family member or trusted individual to act on your behalf in case of incapacity. While your agents have a legal obligation to act in your best interest they won’t have to post an expensive bond either. Make sure the power of attorney clearly states that it will be effective even if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Contact the LegalJourney Law Firm to schedule a consultation with an Attorney to discuss establishing your durable power of attorney today.

 

 


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Attorney Karnardo Garnett represents clients with their Estate Planning, Elder Law and Asset Protection needs throughout the Tampa Bay Area, serving all of the bay area, including but not limited to Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gibsonton, Riverview, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County, FL



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