For an adult child, one of the most difficult decisions to make is the decision to pursue a guardianship over a parent. As you parents age, however, if may become painfully obvious that one, or both, of them are no longer able to live independently. While it may seem as though you are taking away a parent’s freedom and independence by pursuing guardianship, failing to intervene could lead to serious physical injuries or financial victimization by those who prey on the elderly and disabled. If you find yourself asking “ When do I need a guardianship? ” keep in mind that every situation is unique; however, if you see any of the following signs it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship:
- Increased injuries – falls, bumps, and bruises that occur more frequently and/or cannot be adequately explained.
- Unkempt appearance — not bathing, lack of interest in appearance.
- Forgetting things – increased memory loss and/or forgetting important things that should not be forgotten.
- Disappearing money/assets – money missing from accounts, items missing from the house, or unexplained purchases.
- Mood swings – aging can cause depression or changes in mood; however, if the changes are erratic, excessive or very rapid it may be more than normal aging.
In order to become your parent’s guardian you must first petition the appropriate court. Other family members and interested parties will be notified of the petition and given the right to be heard on the matter. If the petition is opposed the court will conduct an inquiry and investigation and then hold a hearing in most cases. At the hearing, evidence will be present on both sides and the court will make a decision if a guardian is needed and if so, if you are an appropriate choice.
If you are appointed guardian the court will specify what authority you have over the ward (your parent). How much authority you are given will depend on what the court believes the ward is capable of doing and not doing on his/her own. If you are appointed guardian of the person you will likely make decision such as where the ward lives, what doctor he/she treats with and other personal decisions. A guardian of the estate, also referred to as a conservator, makes financial decision for the ward such as what bills will be paid and what assets to retain or sell.
If you concerned that a parent (or other loved one) is in need of a guardian, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.