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When is a guardianship appropriate and how is one obtained?

With the average age of the population rising, concerns about what will happen to elderly family members is coming into the forefront of elder law. Estate planning options, such as powers of attorney and living trusts, may be used to care for an elderly family member, but if those options are not available, it may be necessary to obtain a guardianship. The key for District of Columbia residents is to get a guardianship put into place before a loved one suffers any harm.

No one wants to think of a beloved elderly relative not being able to take care of him or herself. Forgetting to pay bills, to take medications or even to take a shower for days at a time could be warning signs that help may be needed. Sometimes, the decline is slow, but there are no guarantees that it will not accelerate.

When a District of Columbia resident no longer has the capacity to care for him or herself, it is often too late to execute a trust or power of attorney. Family members will need to petition the court for the right to care for that relative. The person appointed by the court may be making decisions regarding a family member's health and finances as well as day-to-day life decisions such as where to live.

The guardianship process can be complex and take a significant amount of time and resources to obtain. Some might say that the process reflects the depth of responsibility entrusted to the person appointed. The court will take whatever steps it deems necessary to ensure that a guardianship is appropriate and that the best person is put in charge of caring for an incapacitated person.

Source: Findlaw, "Elderly Guardianship Basics", Accessed on Aug. 14, 2015

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