Even with the best intentions, most senior citizens don’t plan for a future in which they may be
incapacitated. Perhaps they didn’t want to face the prospect of losing autonomy, or perhaps they
fell ill before they had a chance to plan. Either way, for those with elder relatives and loved ones
who no longer appear able to make sound financial and medical decisions, petitioning for an
adult guardianship, also known as a conservatorship may be a viable option.
Even if an adult doesn’t appear to be capable, they won’t automatically lose their freedom to
handle their own affairs unless the matter comes before a judge in a court of law. Fortunately,
you can bring the matter in front of a judge yourself if you believe that your loved one would be
better off with you handling things. Here are some steps you will likely need to take if you
decide this is the right path for you and/or your loved one:
- Gather information on finances, health, and family.
Courts prefer to grant guardianships to close relatives. If you’re a family member, it may be
easier to get a guardianship but it is by no means a guarantee. You’ll also have to show the court
what finances need to be managed and why. To do this, you’ll need both financial
documentation and a recent doctor’s report to show that the elderly person isn’t competent to
handle their own affairs.
- Petition the court and let other relatives know.
This is a trickier process, and an elder law attorney can help you. You’ll have to petition the
court and send notice to the elder person’s relatives. They may contest your bid for a
guardianship either by simply contesting it, or by wishing to be made conservator instead.
A temporary guardian may be put in place if it’s obvious to the court that the elder person needs
a guardian sooner rather than later. They may also request interviews with you or the elder
person to make a decision.
- Go to the initial court hearing.
Whether your petition is contested or uncontested, you must go to the first initial court hearing.
At this time, you may be granted or denied a guardianship, or the judge may appoint a guardian
ad litem to help determine what’s in your elder relative’s best interest.
It’s important to remember that when petitioning for a guardianship, the judge and the guardian
ad litem aren’t your lawyers. Retaining your own attorney to assist you in the process will ensure
that you do what the court expects and that the petition process goes as smoothly as possible.
If you would like information on how elder attorneys can help support you through the
guardianship process and navigate any additional elder law and long-term care issues that you
may face, contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.