Guardianship is a legal process whereby an individual acts on behalf of another to care for his or her needs. Typically, it either involves minor children or adults with diminished capacity due to illness or age.
Guardians are often granted control over personal decisions, health-related decisions, and/or financial decisions. And since guardianships limit the rights of individuals to make their own decisions, courts are usually heavily involved to ensure that the appointed guardians fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. Guardians must also comply with court-mandated procedural requirements, such as filing petitions, attending hearings, taking inventories, and rendering periodic accountings and reports.
Parents can also create temporary guardianships for the care of their minor children without court involvement. This is typically done when parents are traveling for an extensive time and leaving their children in another’s care. Temporary guardianships must be in writing, dated, and in most cases agreed upon by both parents. The papers must also be signed and notarized by both the parents and the temporary guardian (and the minor child if age 14 or older). The duration of temporary guardianships varies but cannot exceed 6 months.
At times, a guardian’s mantle can seem quite burdensome. However, many estate planning tools are available to help alleviate and sometimes even avoid altogether the many cumbersome guardianship requirements. For example, living trusts and powers of attorney are useful instruments often employed to legally bypass unnecessary court entanglement.
Caring for loved ones should be a rewarding experience. And when you properly plan in advance with love, care, and the assistance of qualified professionals, chances are it will be.