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Guardianships and what can and cannot be done based on the law

| Aug 17, 2020 | Guardianship

Texans who have an elderly or infirm loved one who is unable to care for him or herself will undoubtedly want to take the necessary steps to ensure that person is protected. A guardianship can be useful to achieve that end. Still, there are often misconceptions about a guardianship and what the rights and responsibilities are for the guardian and the ward. In short, a guardian should be cognizant as to what the responsibilities and limitations are, as well as understanding if it is the preferable option or there is a useful alternative. With these situations, it is beneficial to consider consulting with legal professionals who are experienced with guardianships.

Know the responsibilities and limits to a guardianship

When the guardian takes the responsibility of representing another person, it is wise to know what that entails from the start. The guardian will do the following: pay the ward’s bills; decide how to protect the ward’s assets; make certain the ward’s needs are adhered to including daily living, medical care and other aspects based on their financial situation; file reports with the court; and to ask the court for approval when making important decisions.

Although this provides significant freedom to the guardian to do as he or she sees fit to protect the ward, it is not limitless. If the ward can make certain decisions on their own, the guardian cannot stop them even if it is clear or there is an opinion that the decision is unwise. Once the decisions are made, the guardian does not bear responsibility for it and its aftermath. The guardian is not obligated to pay for the ward’s living costs or previous debts. The ward cannot be forced to take medication if he or she refuses to do so. A guardian is not expected nor responsible to watch the ward 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Finally, the guardian cannot admit the ward into a mental facility.

Perhaps a guardianship is not the wisest course of action

When there is a guardianship, the ward’s rights will be taken away. This could be disagreeable to many people, especially if the ward is coherent and lucid enough to make the decisions. This may be cause for an extended dispute and be time-consuming, emotionally stressful and financially costly. There could be options that are not as restrictive as a guardianship. Determining whether the prospective ward is even able to be independent is a first hurdle before deciding on a guardianship and its viability. For example, if the ward cannot communicate or make responsible decisions, then it might be best to move forward with a guardianship.

The guardian must also be aware of the responsibilities that are part of the agreement. Simply taking an active role in the person’s life could be a better choice than a legal guardianship. That may include a joint checking account, altering the living arrangements to address the person’s limitations and other less restrictive tactics.

Legal assistance is essential when thinking about guardianships

The protection of a loved one who is unable to adequately care for themselves is a worrisome challenge with many questions. Experienced and caring legal help can be a foundational part of making an informed decision and taking the necessary steps to ensure that the person is protected through guardianships or by other means. This could be an elderly person or a younger person with special needs. Consulting with legal professionals can provide guidance and advice every step of the way so the process goes smoothly and informed decisions are made.