Pros and cons of adult guardianship

What happens when your elderly parents become unable to handle their affairs — or you have an adult child who is mentally, physically or intellectually impaired? Who can legally handle his or her affairs?

This may be the time when a guardian needs to be appointed for your loved one. To be a guardian of another person’s affairs, such as finances or medical care, one must be appointed by a court of law. An application must be filed with the court, and then a judge will hear the case. If the court agrees, it will appoint a guardian. The person who the guardian is appointed for then becomes a ward of the court.

Guardians have authority to perform certain functions and decision-making for the ward, but only those that are authorized by the court. Family members are often assigned as guardians of loved ones, with the assumption that they would have their ward’s best interests in mind.

What are the advantages of having a guardian for an elderly parent? Guardians may be able to pay bills for their wards and make financial decisions about their assets. They may also make decisions regarding medical treatment in the event the ward is unable to. The guardian can help to protect an elderly person from being taken advantage of or exploited. Finally, the guardian is accountable to the court and must submit accounting reports annually.

Are there reasons you may not want to have a guardian appointed for your loved one? Sometimes, a loved one’s welfare is taken away from family members in the event the court awards guardianship to someone outside the family. Wards may lose some of their basic rights to make their own decisions. Establishing a guardianship and maintaining court-required records may be expensive.

An attorney can help establish the details in a guardianship request depending on the needs of the potential ward. If you find that your elderly parent is making bad decisions or in danger of being exploited, seeking advice before it is too late is recommended.

Source: Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, “A Texas Guide to Adult Guardianship” Oct. 30, 2014