Usually the first signs that you may need a guardian appointed are forgetfulness and disorientation. If you are forgetting everyday things that you used to do habitually, such as taking medication or paying your bills or getting lost on the way home or becoming disoriented in your own neighborhood, it may be time to consider guardianship. It is better to think about it early on, rather than wait until you become a danger to yourself or others.
Are there different kinds of guardianships?
A guardian is someone the court will appoint to be responsible for your affairs if you have been deemed incompetent. The type of guardianship that is established depends on the extent of your incapacity and the type of affairs with which you need assistance. The common types of guardianships are those that address personal or medical concerns and those that handle the person’s finances and overall estate. Sometimes a guardianship is required to handle everything.
What should I do?
In some cases, your family can take care of your affairs without the need to formally establish a guardianship, which would be preferable. In many instances though, formal or legal authorization to handle someone else’s affairs is required. For example, without some type of legal authority, your family will not likely be able to gain access to your financial accounts. A court-appointed guardian will be have the ability to do that. You should know that guardianship is only one method of taking care of the needs of someone who has become incapacitated, and it is certainly not the quickest or least expensive method.
What is the process?
In Fayetteville, the first step is filing a petition with the court, after which the court must determine whether the person for whom the guardianship is sought, is in fact incapacitated. This determination can be challenged by the person being declared incompetent, as well as any other interested party. Once an official certification has been made, the court appoints someone to serve in the capacity as guardian.
A guardian’s authorization is not unlimited, however. Certain significant decisions, such as major medical treatment and living arrangements require court approval. In fact, the guardian remains under the supervision of the court throughout his or her service as guardian.
There are some alternatives
Guardianship inevitably results in complete or nearly complete loss of individual rights. That is why many people consider it the “last resort.” There are less intrusive or restrictive alternatives.
A durable power of attorney is an example of a less restrictive means of managing someone else’s affairs. A durable power of attorney can provide the same type of control, but is less formal and less expensive. The power of attorney document can easily be drafted by an estate planning attorney and does not require court supervision, as a guardianship does.
Guardianship in Fayetteville Legal Assistance and Guidance
If you believe you may be approaching that point in your life where you need some assistance, don’t put it off. Consult with an estate planning attorney to determine the best option for you. If a durable power of attorney is what you need, it should be executed far in advance of any more serious signs of diminished capacity. Otherwise, you may not have the mental capacity to actually execute the legal document. At that point, guardianship may be your only option.
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