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A Guardianship Can Grant Legal Decision-Making Power

Sept. 24, 2018

There are many positive things that come with age. Unfortunately, everyone eventually hits a point where faculties begin to fail and things get harder. This comes in many forms: for some it is in response to a medical procedure or treatment for disease, for others it may be a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

When a parent or loved one can no longer take care of themselves, it’s necessary for others to step in and help. To prevent fraud and abuse of vulnerable adults, the law is clear that only certain people can help with medical, legal or financial matters. If you want to help a loved one who needs it, you will need to explore your legal options first.

Finding Help for Your Family

One example in recent news concerns actor Tim Conway, who starred in The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s. Conway, now 84, suffers from dementia. His 56-year-old daughter seeks guardianship because she disagrees with the treatment currently overseen by her stepmother, Conway’s current wife.

Whether you know the actor or not, it’s a situation that most adult children can relate to. Both family relationships and medical treatment are complicated arenas. Finding agreement between both can be difficult.

Legally speaking, there are many options. Powers of attorney, living wills and healthcare proxy all provide viable solutions, depending on your personal situation. If your ailing loved one has an established estate plan that will typically take precedence. If there is no plan, seeking guardianship may be your best option.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a legal guardian as it often refers to parents of children. The term has a broader meaning, though, which extends to adults who are unable to care for themselves, such as the allegations in Mr. Conway’s case—that he requires specific medical care and that he cannot take care of himself. Guardianship gives another adult decision-making responsibility for financial, medical and legal situations.

A Designated Decision-Maker

Medical professionals and family members often don’t agree on the right diagnosis or best treatment, which makes it difficult to reach consensus. This challenge highlights why naming a guardian is so essential. Any delays or family disputes delay much needed medical care. Blended families often experience unique discord in settling these situations, and if a family member lives out of state it presents additional complications.

It’s important that you step up when you family needs you. Yet, without the right paperwork, your voice may not be heard.