Deciding who you want to take care of you and your personal affairs in the event that you can no longer do so can be very difficult. Many people feel uncomfortable thinking about such topics and also find it a challenge to bring them up with loved ones. Because of this, people put off these decisions.
This can have some unfortunate consequences when and if the time comes for you to need help, as the courts will need to appoint a guardian. For instance, if you become very ill or otherwise unable to care for yourself and make financial and/or health care decisions, a guardian will have to make these decisions for you. There are some very important factors to consider because a guardian is appointed.
A guardian will be expected to step in and help with only those decisions that a ward cannot make alone. The guardian should therefore be an adult who is as clear on the limitations of this role as he or she is on the responsibilities. A guardian should also be considered an honest person without a history of activities like bribery, theft or financial mismanagement.
Existing relationships with the ward with also be examined. Considering all the decision-making expectations a guardian will have, he or she will typically be a family member or someone else who knows the ward and, ideally, has a familiarity with his or her wishes.
The courts take a number of factors into consideration when appointing a guardian, including those mentioned above. However, there are many instances when the court appoints someone that the ward or others close to the ward may not agree with.
There are legal avenues to pursue in order to challenge and change guardianship, but it can be easiest to make sure this determination is made before it is actually necessary. As part of a comprehensive estate plan, you can name a durable power of attorney and specify your financial and health care wishes so that your wishes are documented and can be referred to by the courts when determination guardianship.