Adults are assumed to be able to make their own decisions unless otherwise determined by the court. If a mental disability keeps you from making responsible decisions, your local court will appoint a conservator or guardian to make them on your behalf. Guardians can make legal, healthcare and financial decisions, and can work in a full or limited capacity. Below, you will learn more about guardianships.
Standards of Incapacity
Every state has a different standard by which incapacity is judged. In most cases, a person needs guardianship when they lack the capacity to make responsible decisions on their own, but people cannot be declared incapacitated because they make foolish choices. Mental illness and developmental disabilities are not enough to have a person declared incompetent.
The Guardianship Process
In almost every state, any person with an interest in the ward’s well being can hire an attorney and petition the court for guardianship. Protections vary by state; some states only require that the ward be notified, and others require that person’s presence in court. Wards can hire Attorney Cara A. Boyanowski to represent them in court, and courts appoint representatives for those unable to afford hiring a lawyer.
Any competent adult (such as a friend, family member or spouse) can be a guardian; in some states, professional guardians are used. Any adult can draft a durable power of attorney to name a guardian in the event of their incapacity. Courts give special consideration to people who hold a special place in the life of the ward, and if more than one individual is willing to serve, co-guardians can be named.
Legal guardians can fulfill an important role in the life of an incapacitated person, but should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted. If you need to act on behalf of someone in your family, consult an Estate Lawyer in Harrisburg.
Because a legal guardianship comes with a loss of dignity and autonomy, the law requires that it only be imposed when all other alternatives have been tried. Below are some less restrictive alternatives to guardianship.
* Power of attorney: This is the granting of legal powers from one person to another. The person being granted the power acts on the principal’s behalf, and a power of attorney is only used when needed.
* Protective payee: This is a person appointed to manage VA, retirement, Social Security and other benefits on a principal’s behalf.
Get in touch with Serratelli, Schiffman & Brown P.C. for more information.
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