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What is a guardianship and what does it do?

Guardianships can be a complicated issue to understand but it is a vital issue often discussed with estate planning and elder law attorneys. It can be helpful to understand the basics about guardianships before going into the legal process so in this post we will be discussing what a guardianship is and what the process includes. 

A guardianship is used when a person can no longer make decisions on their own so a guardian is appointed by a court to make healthcare and other non-monetary decisions for the individual. Most people who are appointed a guardian have suffered an injury, illness or disability that makes them unable to make decisions on their own.

Establishing a guardianship involves removing an individual's rights so it is important those appointed as a guardian understand their responsibilities and the impact it will have on both of their lives. Guardians who are appointed for another person can be responsible for the monitoring the person's residence, consenting to medical treatment, education and confidential information. They may also be responsible for end-of-life decisions and usually required to report to the court the status of the guardianship.

Individuals can also be appointed a guardian of an estate or property, which means the guardian is responsible for protecting assets, receiving income for the estate, disbursing the estate's assets, getting court approval before selling any assets and reporting to the court about the status of the estate.

Guardianships are not intended to be long-term. Instead, they are designed to help restore the rights of the individual and it is recommended that guardianships be reviewed and accessed every year to determine if the guardianship is still necessary or if it can be terminated.

Guardianships can be a complicated legal process and for the benefit of everyone involved, it may be helpful to consult with an elder law or estate planning attorney to fully comprehend the impact of a guardianship.

Source: Natioal Guardianship Association, Inc., "What is Guardianship

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