What To Do If You Are Appointed Guardian Of An Older Adult
For most of our lives, our parents or guardians are there for us. As they age, however, we may need to be there for them. It is a big responsibility and a serious one. If you find yourself in this position, you will be responsible for their physical, mental, and financial well-being. It is a lot to take on.
Becoming a guardian happens when someone becomes incapable of taking care of themselves. This could include things like not remembering to take medications, not being able to complete daily living tasks, or being unable to take care of their finances. A court designates a caretaker, who then becomes the incapacitated person’s (ward’s) guardian, or, depending on the state, a conservator. If you find yourself in this role, there are some things to know and some things to do.
In Florida, a guardianship is usually granted when all other less-restrictive choices are exhausted, such as a living trust or power of attorney, or do not fit the situation. The guardianship may be voluntary in cases where the ward is mentally competent but unable to care for their assets, or involuntary in cases where they are not mentally competent.
First, it is important to read any court orders that are issued in regard to being named the guardian. This document will explain what powers you will have and what your duties are under the law. Depending on what the court order dictates, you may be authorized to make a number of decisions for the person you’re looking after. Those duties could include making healthcare and financial decisions for the ward. You may be able to seek additional powers through court. The well-being and safety of the ward should always be the first priority.
As guardian, you will also have a legal obligation, also known as a fiduciary duty, to do what is in the best interest of the ward when it comes to their assets and property. This is a high standard, and important that you are careful with the incapacitated person’s money. It is a good idea to keep separate accounts and never lend money from the ward to others without the court saying it is okay. Keep receipts and coherent records of all transactions made on the ward’s behalf.
Part of the process of being guardian is providing regular reports to the court on what is happening. These usually include an inventory of the ward’s property and assets. You may also have to provide yearly reports on what was spent on behalf of the ward and a final report of the ward’s assets upon their death.
In terms of practical steps to take when caring for an older person, it is important to consult them as much as possible on the decisions you are making on their behalf. Depending on the level of incapacitation, this may be tougher than in some other cases. However, it is imperative to include the person in these decisions. Tell them what you are doing and let them be a part of the decision-making.
It is also important to help maintain a ward’s social contacts. They should be able to see friends and family. Of course, if these interactions would be detrimental to a ward’s health, it would be a different situation. However, in most situations, these interactions are good for the ward’s mental health and physical well-being.
Elderly guardianships can sometimes be complex, legally. It may be worth consulting with an elder law attorney who can help navigate the process and ensure the best possible outcome for those involved. These are tough decisions to make and having the best information possible makes sense for everyone involved. The compassionate attorneys at The Mattar Firm are here for you. Contact us today at 239-222-2222.