As your parents age, the roles of parent and child may be reversed. Adult children often find themselves taking on responsibilities like paying bills, taking a parent to doctor’s appointments, and making sure they are eating properly. Over time, a parent’s ability to perform basic tasks may decline, especially if they suffer from dementia. Although an estate plan and legal documents like powers of attorney can enable you to help your parent make decisions, sometimes a guardianship or conservatorship may be necessary. So how do you know if you need to seek guardianship for an aging parent or a loved one with dementia? An experienced attorney can take a look at your parent’s specific circumstances and advise you of your options.
Your Parent Does Not Have Current Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney for finances and health care are valuable tools that can protect your parent’s health, safety, and financial security. If your parent does not already have POAs in place and you are worried about what will happen if they fall ill or someone tries to take advantage of them, talk to your attorney about filing for guardianship. Even if your parent has signed a power of attorney, some transactions such as the sale of real estate and other investments may require guardianship, depending on the state. If a parent has already been deemed incapacitated by the court but does not have executed powers of attorney, guardianship may be your only option.
Decision Making Abilities are Compromised
It can be challenging to know when legal guardianship is necessary. For example, if your loved one lives alone and refuses to accept help to make their living situation safer, you may want to look into guardianship. If a parent has lost the ability to make financial decisions, declines necessary medical care, or is unable to take care of other personal matters, you can petition the court for guardianship.
In Pennsylvania, a guardian for an adult is only appointed if they are deemed incapacitated by a court. The court will hear evidence that the person does not have the mental capacity to handle some or all aspects of their life. If a judge determines that the person cannot make informed decisions for themselves, a guardian will be appointed. It is important to keep in mind that your parent has the right to an attorney and may object to the appointment of a guardian or conservator.
To become a legal guardian, you must demonstrate that you are capable of acting in your parent’s best interest. When petitioning the court for guardianship, finding a law firm that employs both family law attorneys and estate lawyers who work collaboratively can help to ensure you have qualified legal representation.
Courts prefer to appoint close family members as guardians. However, if a case is highly contested by loved ones or an incapacitated person does not have anyone close to them who can act as a guardian, a judge may appoint a professional such as a social worker to handle their affairs.
If you are concerned about an aging parent, our team at Carosella & Associates can determine whether guardianship is appropriate and provide legal counsel you can trust.