If you have an elderly family member or loved one who has become incapable of caring for himself or herself, you may wish to step in and help make day to day decisions for your family member or loved one. Unfortunately, you may also have found out that having good intentions, or even being related to the person, is often not enough to allow you to make those decisions. Often, an appointment as guardian of the ward, or person who needs assistance, is required before you can help.
State laws determine when a guardianship is needed, how to petition for one and sets the limits of authority granted to a guardian. In addition, terminology may vary by state. As a general rule, a guardian has authority over the ward while a conservator has authority over the estate of the ward.
In order to become a guardian, you must file a petition for guardianship, or similar document, with the appropriate court. This is typically the probate court; however, it may vary by state or city within a state. After the petition is filed, anyone with an interest in the proceedings is entitled to be notified that the petition was filed, including the ward. The court will then schedule a hearing to determine two things — if the ward is legally in need of a guardian and, is so, whether you are an appropriate person to be appointed guardian. Given the importance of being appointed guardian, you may wish to consult with an elder law attorney once you see the need for appointment
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