A guardianship is a judicial or court ordered process where a trusted person, a guardian, is appointed to handle the personal affairs of an "incapacitated person". It includes making health, safety, and residential decision for the incapacitated person. A conservatorship is a similar judicial process, but the conservator is responsible for the estate and financial affairs of the incapacitated person. Below are a few considerations to determine whether a guardianship and conservatorship are appropriate in your situation.
LESS RESTRICTIVE ALTERNATIVES
Is there a durable power of attorney in place. If so, the power of attorney may be able to perform the needed services and duties without having to apply to the court for a guardianship and conservatorship. An appropriate estate plan can prevent the need for this process.
Eccentricity or poor spending habits alone are not enough for the appointment of a guardian or conservator. A licensed medical professional must provide a diagnosis to the court that provides the basis for the appointments. The medical diagnosis is often of a mental or cognitive impairment. Common examples include alzheimers or dementia, but the possible medical grounds are too numerous to list.
SUITABILITY OF THE PROPOSED GUARDIAN AND CONSERVATOR
In order to qualify, a conservator must be able to post a surety bond to guarantee the safe keeping of the incapacitated person's estate. Poor credit history, bankruptcy or a criminal background could result in denial of a bond by insurance companies. In these situations, it may be necessary to have one person serve as guardian and another serve as conservator.
If you find yourself experiencing the challenges of caring for an incapacitated loved one or friend, guardianship and conservatorship may be the appropriate option for you.
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