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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Is It Time to Consider Guardianship for an Older Relative?

Guardianship means that a family member of an elderly parent or relative is placed in a position of higher responsibility to make medical and daily care decisions. The question about who and when to name a guardian for your aging loved ones is a significant one.

Watching a parent age is emotionally difficult. Those who used to provide the care for you now need you to care for them. Under certain circumstances, it may become necessary for you to pursue court-appointed guardianship of your parents. Though they may object, you should act in what you believe is in their best interests.

When It May Be Time for Guardianship

Oftentimes, families wonder when it might be appropriate to have a guardian appointed to care for and make decisions for their parents. If your parents have an estate plan in place and have already named a Power of Attorney, this can make things a bit easier. Still, there are circumstances that necessitate formally naming a guardian.

Loss of Decision-Making Abilities

As people age, they can sometimes lose their ability to make decisions. Diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia can compromise a person’s awareness and understanding. When this happens they are at risk of making unwise or even dangerous decisions.

If your parents can no longer make decisions about property, health, or safety, it might be time to consider guardianship.

Medical Care Disagreements

The right to make personal decisions about healthcare is fundamental. But aging, mental decline, and certain medical conditions can compromise an individual’s ability to make important health care judgments. If your parent refuses home health care or perhaps refuses to take necessary medications, guardianship may be a valid option.

Evidence of Another’s Influence

Caretakers or other senior adult helpers can be invaluable in helping your parents accomplish everyday tasks. These people can often allow your parents to continue to feel a sense of independence and control over their own lives. However, there are times when an individual may exploit the relationship they have with your parents. Examples of this kind of undue influence include:

  • Adding the caretaker as an authorized signatory on bank accounts
  • Encouraging your parents to rewrite their will naming them as a beneficiary
  • Coercing your parents into giving them personal property like furniture, cars, or cash

Court-appointed guardianship for your parents can help. Guardianship can protect them and their property from unscrupulous people who would seek to manipulate them for personal gain.

What does a guardian do?

In New York, family members have the right to request guardianship of their elder relatives. Competent elders can also agree to allow a family member to make decisions on their behalf by naming them as guardians.

Guardians for elder relatives can be given the authority to manage important matters such as:

  • Health care decisions
  • Real estate or property issues
  • Handling taxes

It’s recommended that an attorney well-versed in elder laws be utilized to ensure that your loved one has their needs met. An attorney can also help smooth the process that can sometimes be complicated.

What to Do If Your Parents Are Incapacitated

When your elder parents or relatives are unable to decide to accept guardianship, the issues can be more complex. In those cases, courts consider several elements of the senior adult’s situation, including:

  • The demands placed on them in caring for their own medical needs, property, etc.
  • Physical or mental illnesses that affect their ability to care for themselves
  • Necessary medications that may impair their decision-making ability

If you have an older family member who is incapacitated and needs a guardian, you need the help of an experienced elder law attorney. Merlino & Gonzalez helps Staten Island, NY, families deal with end-of-life issues, including estate and trust settlements. Give us a call today.


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