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Does My Parent Need a Guardian?

Your parents took care of you throughout your childhood and into adulthood. Now, it might be time to take care of your parents in return. A guardian is a person who has the legal ability to handle someone’s finances and other decisions and obligations. At some point, it might be best to seek guardianship over a parent in order to take care of necessary decisions. Even those who have an estate plan in place may benefit from guardianship. There are several things to consider when you decide whether to seek legal guardianship over a parent.

Signs Your Parent May Need a Guardian

There are numerous signs that may indicate it is time to seek legal guardianship over a parent. All people lose some of their mental agility as they age, but when a person seems to be more forgetful, it could be a symptom of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Here are some signs that your parent might need some help.

  • Becomes more forgetful
  • Is unable to take care of financial tasks, such as paying bills
  • Takes no interest in personal appearance or hygiene
  • Becomes less communicative
  • Cannot make decisions
  • Has utilities shut off for non-payment
  • Requires assisted living but refuses to go

You may only seek guardianship over an adult who is incapacitated.

What is Legal Incapacity?

In order to obtain legal guardianship of an adult, such as your parent, the person must be deemed legally incapacitated. Incapacity occurs when a formerly competent adult loses the ability to properly take care of him or herself. The guardian is responsible for care and control of the ward. Therefore, if you are the guardian over a parent, you have the legal obligation to make provision for the care, comfort, and maintenance of the person. In some instances, you may need to go to court to obtain guardianship in order to place a parent in an assisted living facility, for example. If you feel that your parent requires a guardian, it is best to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will assist you and guide you through the process.

Legal Guardianship or Power of Attorney?

Many people wonder about the difference between legal guardianship and the power of attorney. In general, a power of attorney is usually part of an estate plan. It provides for a named individual to take over the finances and decisions for the person if they become incapacitated. If you have a power of attorney in place, you likely do not have to get legal guardianship. If you do not have a durable power of attorney, the option is to seek legal guardianship through the court. Power of attorney is preferable to legal guardianship because it is already in place and you must go to court and file documents to obtain legal guardianship.

If your parent is incapacitated or unable to make their own decisions, you may need to take over for them. If so, you may want to discuss the matter with a qualified attorney. At Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd., we provide high quality legal services including help obtaining guardianship over a parent. Contact Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. online or call us today at (608) 784-8310 for a free consultation.

Published September 6, 2020
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