As an elderly loved one becomes incapacitated and no longer able to handle their own affairs, perhaps because of a cognitive decline, it is time for someone else to assume responsibility for them. A spouse, a child or close friend may be the best choice to take control.
If the individual has done estate planning, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare may already be in place. This Power of Attorney would allow the authorized party to make decisions about the health and wellbeing of the loved one. Decisions might include getting home care started, a move into a Senior community or skilled nursing facility, or decisions about having surgery or other medical treatment.
When A Guardianship Is Necessary
If there is no Power of Attorney in place, then a Guardianship would need to be obtained through the court system in the county where the incapacitated individual resides. Seeking a Guardianship may take a few months’ time and can be costly. One goal of the court is to determine to what extent the incapacitated person is able to make their own decisions. If the loved one has some ability to make choices, the court will place restrictions on the Guardianship.
If no one comes forward to seek Guardianship, the court will appoint a public guardian. This assigned guardian is charged with making the best decisions in the interest of the individual, regardless of the impact on family members. As always, it is best to prevent the need for a Guardianship by getting estate planning in place.
Often, when the need for a Guardianship arises, the loved one needs someone to handle their financial affairs as well. If there is no Power of Attorney in place for financial matters, a Conservatorship may be sought at the same time the Guardianship is requested. The Conservator is authorized by the court to conduct financial activities such as paying bills, selling investments, selling property- all in the best interests of the incapacitated person.
Here is additional information on Guardianships and Conservatorships from the state of Missouri.
How to Get Started
At Beck & Lenox, our attorneys have helped thousands of families make decisions to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their elderly loved ones.
Our team of estate planning attorneys in St. Charles will meet with you to review needs and goals and determine what action may be appropriate for your loved one’s situation. Book a call with one of the attorneys at Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law.