If you have a family member who suffers from a disability or who has a mental condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the question of whether someone needs to step in and make decisions for that person often arises. But who gets to make this decision and what standards are used to determine the outcome? This answer largely depends upon the laws of your state, though there are similarities regardless of what state you live in.
Decision: While each state has its own laws that govern conservatorships and guardianships, it is always up to the court to determine whether an adult is legally incapacitated and needs someone else to make decisions on his or her behalf. This generally means that the court must hold a hearing and decide who would best serve as a conservator or guardian. In some situations a previous conservator or guardian can nominate someone to take his or her place, though the final decision always rests with the court.
Standards: At what point does a person’s bad or irresponsible behavior constitute a reason enough for courts to give someone else the legal authority to make decisions on that person’s behalf? In general, a court will not appoint a conservator if a person is merely exhibiting bad judgment. However, if there is evidence to show the person does not understand the consequences of his or her actions, a court may step in and appoint a conservator.
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