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Guardianships for older adults

| Jul 13, 2021 | Elder Law |

Indiana residents should understand how guardianships for older adults work. As people age, they may start to lose their faculties and be unable to do all of the things that used to come easily to them. That can include driving, managing their medications and even handling their financial affairs. Sometimes, these elderly people find themselves under the care of a guardian.

How guardianship works

Many adults are familiar with the idea of power of attorney and even have one designated in their estate plan. However, a guardianship is different. Guardians are named by the court if someone is unable to care for themselves and has not designated a power of attorney. Sometimes, a guardian is known as a conservator.

Often, the court will name someone known to the older adult as a guardian. That might be a family member, neighbor or friend. However, a stranger is sometimes appointed. Some professional guardians have been implicated in stealing from their clients, which is why guardianships are closely regulated by the courts. A physician first needs to certify that the elderly person needs a guardian, for example.

The importance of estate planning

Attorneys who have experience in elder law are a useful resource when it comes to demystifying guardianship. In general, it’s hard to prove that someone needs a guardian. Being a guardian also requires a lot of time and energy. Proper estate planning can remove some of these challenges.

For example, it’s possible to designate not just a power of attorney but also a standby guardian. Trusts and other instruments can also be used to provide for someone who can no longer care for themselves. It’s prudent to work with an attorney to craft a plan before assistance is needed. This allows individuals more choice and control over their care in the long run.