What would happen to your family and financial affairs if you suddenly became incapacitated? If you don’t know the answer, you could be subjecting your family to the unnecessary heartache, complications, and expense of a guardianship.
To illustrate how a guardianship works, let’s look at the case of Mr. Green, a 67-year-old widower who suddenly suffers a stroke. Mr. Green is left partially paralyzed, of diminished mental capacity and unable to handle any of his own affairs. He took no steps during his lifetime to guard against this possibility. His assets are in his name alone.
Mr. Green has a son, John, who is notified when the stroke occurs. John rushes to his father’s side to assist him in the hospital and ultimate placement into a nursing home. John finds that the doctor is unable to discuss with him any of the aspects of his father’s case because he has no legal authority to act on his father’s behalf. As Mr. Green’s income checks begin to accumulate, John cannot cash them nor pay the bills, which also are accumulating. When it is time for Mr. Green to move to a nursing home for rehabilitation, the nursing home is reluctant to deal with him and requests him to file for a guardianship.
Ultimately, John is forced to hire an attorney and apply in probate court to be appointed guardian of his father’s person and estate. As the process unfolds, John must make an inventory of all of his father’s assets, even though he knows little about them.
John now has the authority to speak to doctors and to deal with the nursing home in order to make decisions about his father’s health and physical well-being. However, he cannot pay his father’s bills without prior approval from the probate court. Additionally, John must formally account to the court as to the receipts and disbursements of the guardianship every two years for the rest of Mr....