When the news discusses the subject of adult guardianship, it is usually to report on someone taking advantage of an older person who can no longer care for him- or herself. While these types of abuses do need to be exposed and, as this blog has previously reported, Florida lawmakers are attempting to hold guardians more accountable, it should be pointed out that most guardians take very good care of their wards.
An adult guardian is a person appointed to take care of the affairs and health of another adult who is incapacitated in some way, whether physically or psychologically. As such, when preparing an estate plan, one should think carefully about how one wishes to be taken care of in the case one can no longer do so themselves.
One way to do this is through naming a pre-need guardian. This allows the person doing the planning to decide just who will have the power over his or her finances and general care. Not planning for such an event can lead to disputes within the family with regard to how money should be spent, or what standard of living is appropriate for the incapacitated individual. Choosing a trusted guardian can bring a person some peace of mind.
As with most estate planning functions, selecting the guardian is only the first step. That person then needs to be appointed in the correct manner. Like the execution of wills, trust documents, powers of attorney and healthcare directives, the document appointing the pre-need guardian needs to be precise and legally sufficient. The last thing family members need when a loved one has been hit by incapacity is to deal with questions with regard to whether the legal documents are correct. Due to this, people planning for their incapacity may wish to consider consulting an experienced Florida estate planning professional.
Source: aarp.org, “Building Family: How Guardianship Can Create Community,” Laura Hahn, June 23, 2014