If you are the adult child of an aging parent, watching your parent succumb to the physical and/or mental deterioration that accompanies the aging process can be extremely difficult. Making the decision to seek guardianship over your parent can be a heart-wrenching decision because it often feels as though you are taking away a parent’s independence. As an Indianapolis guardianship attorney at Frank & Kraft explains, it helps to recognize how your aging parent might actually benefit from guardianship.
What Is an Adult Guardianship?
Guardianship is a legal relationship, established through a court process, whereby a responsible adult or organization is appointed (the “guardian”) to care for someone who needs help (the “ward”) caring for himself/herself and/or managing his/her finances. Indiana recognizes both a Guardianship of the Person and a Guardianship of the Estate. A Guardianship of the Person is established when an adult is unable to care for his/her personal needs, such as maintaining regular hygiene and taking prescribed medication. A Guardian of the Person will be responsible for protecting the adult and will have the authority to make personal decisions for the adult, such as where he/she will live. A Guardianship of the Estate is established when an adult cannot handle financial matters. The court might appoint one type of guardian or both types, depending on the needs of the ward.
Does My Parent Need a Guardian?
Unfortunately, a “one size fits all” test does not exist for determining when a parent needs a guardian. Instead, it is a highly personal decision that must be made based on the unique set of circumstances in which you find your parent. It may help though to consider what the American Bar Association (ABA) has said about the subject. According to the ABA, a senior may need a guardian:
- When they can no longer manage their affairs because of serious incapacity, and
- No other voluntary arrangements for decision making and management have been set up ahead of time, or if they have been set up, they are not working well, and
- Serious harm will come to the individual if no legally authorized decision maker is appointed.
The ABA goes on to say “A decision to seek guardianship should never be based on stereotypical notions of old age or handicaps. A person has the right to make foolish or risky decisions. These decisions by themselves do not mean that the person lacks capacity. A competent person chooses to run risks. An incompetent person runs risks not by choice, but by happenstance.
Benefits of Guardianship
Like many people contemplating the need to petition for guardianship of a parent, it may be easy for you to think of reasons not to move forward. You may feel as though you are betraying your parent in some way or that you are taking away your parent’s autonomy and independence. What you need to realize, however, is that failing to move forward could leave your parent vulnerable to elder abuse or victimization by those who prey on the elderly. In addition, there are numerous other advantages to have a guardianship in place, such as:
- Other members of the family know that someone is dedicated and devoted to caring for their family member.
- You have clearly established legal authority to interact with third parties, such as a long-term care facility, physicians, government agencies, and even law enforcement officers if necessary.
- Someone has the authority to receive income and benefits and pay bills
- A process is in place for major decision making including long term care and residence.
- The legal ability to consent to medical treatment is in place.
- Assets are protected and managed properly.
Contact an Indianapolis Guardianship Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about the benefits of guardianship for an aging parent, contact an experienced Indianapolis guardianship attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.
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