As elderly people decline or need help making decisions, a Guardianship Court may find him or her incapacitated and in need of a guardian. Guardians serve two important roles – (1) take care of the person, and (2) take care of his or her property. Guardians of the person help decide where you live, medical treatment, and supervise activities much like a parent would do for a child. Guardians of the estate handle financial accounts, pay bills, invest, and vote shares of stock.
If an elderly person does not wish to lose such freedoms, he or she may defend against a guardianship. This may involve expert testimony from a physician. Or the family may dispute who the Court should appoint as guardian. This is especially true where the prospective ward owns a great deal of property or controls a corporation. A guardianship dispute is sometimes related to the control of a closely held business, with some family members objecting to the way the company has been managed. One benefit of a guardianship is the ward can no longer transact business by signing contracts or deeds. This is especially helpful where an elderly person is prone to give away money to strangers, or buy things over the phone. If a loved one might order thousands of magazines over the phone from Publishers Clearinghouse, it’s time to involve an attorney and seek the help and supervision of a Guardianship Court.
Even after the Court appoints a guardian, disputes may arise where the guardian does not file an accounting, money is missing, or the guardian makes improper gifts. Family members may not agree on end of life choices. Even where guardianships start off as rather simple, family members often need the assistance of an experienced litigation attorney to help resolve conflict. With clients of significant wealth, Guardianship Courts have a great deal of authority and discretion to approve gifts or establish a different estate plan. Before a Guardianship Court takes action to change your inheritance, contact an attorney at your earliest opportunity.