Aging is an important part of life, and we all have to be prepared for it. If you have parents or another loved one who are becoming frail you may be worried about their care and well-being in the near future.
There are many ways that you can be sure they will be well taken care of and represented in case they become incapacitated. The best time to act is right away, before they are unable to act for themselves. But even if that time has passed, there are options for you to assume the role of decision-maker.
Guardianship and conservatorship
A guardian is an agent appointed by the court to act in the best interests of someone who has become incapacitated and can no longer make informed decisions. They are responsible for whatever aspects of their appointed ward the court has allowed, including:
- Where they live and the care they receive.
- Management of all finances such as bills, real estate, et cetera.
- Decisions about specific aspects of care such as treatments and end-of-life decisions.
A conservator is, by contrast, limited to financial issues. If the elder in question is still able to make most of their decisions this is usually the preferred way to go.
Plan for tomorrow
There is no better time for today to have a plan in place for quality care. An estate plan is not difficult and can be arranged easily by an experienced elder law attorney. It starts with a few simple questions about your situation and what kind of care you expect, as well as the size of the estate for you or your loved one.
If a guardianship or conservatorship is part of the plan it is very easy to set up before incapacitation sets in. This is the best way to avoid a long, difficult legal procedure.
Time to act?
If your loved one is already incapacitated, it may be too late to write an estate plan. You always have the option of filing for guardianship. This is a lengthy process that will examine all aspects of the loved one’s life as well as your relationship to them to be sure that there is no alternative and it is in the elder’s best interests.
The elder also has the right to hire an attorney and fight any proposed guardianship or conservatorship. In addition, all other known relatives will be informed of the petition filed. If you are facing this decision it is crucial that you approach it as a family, if at all possible, and agree at least broadly on the proper course of action.
No matter what the situation you and your loved one are facing, there are legal issues involved in quality care and well-being with age. It’s not too late if a loved one is already incapacitated, but the best time to plan for this eventuality is today. An experienced elder law attorney can make all the difference, bringing you and your family the peace of mind you need.