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Guardianship is the legal process used to designate an agent, called the “guardian”, when individuals can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about their person and/or property, or have become susceptible to fraud or undue influence.

Guardianships are also used to protect children with incapacitating disabilities when they turn eighteen. Putting powers of attorney in place requires legal capacity to do so. For young adults who will never reach that level of capacity, a guardianship is the only way for the young adult to have a legal representative after the disabled person reaches adulthood.

Guardianships can be tailored to dovetail with the abilities of the person they protect. For example, under the proper set of circumstances a person under guardianship, called a “ward”, can vote, hunt and fish, or marry.

Although they serve most of the same purposes as health care and financial powers of attorneys, guardianships are different in that they are subject to ongoing court oversight. Agent decisions made under a power of attorney are not as readily reviewed. Access to court oversight is useful for family members who may disagree about how best to handle the affairs of the family member under guardianship.

Corporate guardians are available to assist families in this situation. Financial guardianships provide an initial inventory and annual accountings as part of court supervision. Personal guardianships provide an annual, outside review of ward’s health and personal circumstances.

People who are able to execute powers of attorney should do so. For those who do not and those who cannot, guardianships offer a useful alternate means of establishing a “legal proxy”.

This information is intended to be viewed as general information. Your individual situations or needs require consultation with the advice of an attorney. We are here to help you today.

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