With the life expectancy of Americans inching closer and closer to 100 years the older American population continues to grow exponentially. By 2050, experts tell us that the over 65 age group will outnumber the under 21 age group for the first time in the history of the planet. Although we are living longer we are still battling diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If your parents are approaching, or are even well into, their golden years you may be faced to answer the question “Does my mother need a guardian?” at some point in the near future.
None of the advances in medicine over the last several decades have been able to slow down the deterioration of the body and mind. We may be living longer, but our physical and/or mental health will eventually suffer as we age nonetheless. If your mother or father is showing signs of Alzheimer’s or another old age related dementia condition it may be time to consider filing for guardianship if an incapacity plan isn’t already in place.
A guardian is a person who is appointed by a court to make personal decisions relating to the ward, or person in need of protection. As guardian, for example, you might be able to decide where your mother lives or which doctor she treats with for medical issues. A conservator is also someone who is appointed by a court but a conservator has control over the estate of the ward. As conservator you might be able to make decision regarding the sale of your mother’s property, for instance.
Deciding whether your parent needs a guardian and/or conservator is not an easy decision. For many adult children they are torn between the desire to protect a parent and the feeling that they are taking away the parent’s independence. Only you can make the final decision to seek guardianship; however, consider what will happen if you do not? If you mother or father is unable to make simple decisions, does not always remember things, and/or gets lost easily, for example, you could be putting her/him in danger of serious injury by NOT seeking guardianship.
Consult with your parents’ physician about their physical and mental condition first. Then talk to your estate planning attorney about what options are available before you make a final decision. Sometimes, there are less restrictive options available that may accomplish your goals. If guardianship is the best option try to remember that your intention is not to take away your parents’ independence, but to protect them from harm.
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