Guardianship exists for a reason. Sometimes, adults simply lose the ability to make good decisions on their own behalf and handle their households. They need outside support to pay their bills, make it to appointments or take their medication on time.
Dementia, brain injuries or just the slow decline of aging can leave someone struggling to take care of themselves without help. Family members and professionals concerned about the mental acuity and safety of an older adult can go to court to seek guardianship over that vulnerable adult.
Guardianship protects people in vulnerable positions, but it can also open them up to various kinds of abuse. Can you avoid a guardianship as you age through estate planning efforts now?
Powers of attorney let you name the person who helps
Perhaps the biggest issue with a guardianship is how it strips someone of control. A professional with whom you have no long-term relationship or a family member with whom you have a strained relationship could be the one to sweep the guardianship.
To protect yourself from manipulation and mistreatment when you are vulnerable, you can draft powers of attorney now. Provided that you use the right language, their authority will be durable, meaning that the documents will continue to hold authority even when the courts declare that you have a lack of mental capacity.
You can name someone you trust to assume medical authority and possibly a separate person to handle your financial affairs. Powers of attorney allow you to grant access only to specific accounts or authority for specific decisions. They also give you an opportunity to provide guidance to the person you name who will act on your behalf.
Planning now means having security in the future
The best estate plans don’t just protect the people you love if you die. They protect you right now and in the future. Since life is unpredictable, it is typically advisable for people to invest in protections for many possible future scenarios, including medical incapacitation.
Adding the right documents to your estate plan can protect you from an involuntary guardianship or a guardian who won’t act in your best interests.