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Can an estate plan help someone avoid a future guardianship?

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2023 | Guardianships

Most people aspire to age in place when possible. They want to spend as much of their retirement as they can living in their own homes and enjoying life without the support of professionals. However, eventually, many older adults do require outside support.

They may move into nursing homes or choose to live with their children. Occasionally, people have relatively significant support needs. Those with Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating health issues may need help managing day-to-day life. Sometimes, people who struggle to manage their own affairs and finances could face legal challenges in court.

Family members or even professional care providers may take someone to court to request a guardianship over them. Guardianship makes someone else responsible for an adult’s daily needs and gives them control over someone’s resources. Is it possible for vulnerable older adults to prevent a guardianship situation?

Advance planning can prevent a forced guardianship

Someone facing an attempt to obtain guardianship can present their side of the situation in court. They can present evidence that can help them counter claims about their lack of mental acuity. They may have financial records or witnesses that can help them prove that they can still manage their daily lives and finances without support.

However, there is never any guarantee about how the courts will rule in such cases. It is often better to have a plan in place before someone tries to raise questions about someone’s cognitive abilities. Powers of attorney are useful additions to a standard estate plan. They allow the person planning, called the principal, to name an agent or attorney in fact to manage their finances and medical issues if they become incapacitated. Many people create durable powers of attorney. These documents retain their authority even if the courts declare the principal permanently incapacitated and therefore incapable of managing their own affairs.

Although it can be unpleasant to think about what might happen if an individual loses their ability to speak on their own behalf in court or to manage their own financial resources, considering that possibility protects an individual from the worst possible outcome should that situation arise. Instead of being at the mercy of whoever seeks authority from the courts, they get to preemptively choose the person who will act on their behalf.

Taking the time to put together the right estate planning paperwork can protect people when they are at their most vulnerable and give them peace of mind as well. Seeking legal guidance can help to ensure that this paperwork is enforceable and accurately affects an individual’s wishes.

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