Establishing a guardianship, or conservatorship, can help you protect a loved one who can no longer care for themselves. Individuals may need to pursue guardianship or conservatorship due to their loved one’s advanced age, mental incapacity, a diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s disease, or physical incapacity. These legal tools allow a third party to assist an individual who doesn’t have the legal capacity to manage some or all of their affairs.
A Guardianship or Conservatorship Could Benefit Your Loved One
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we understand that pursuing guardianship and conservatorship in Southeastern Massachusetts can be difficult. When you work with our legal team, you can rest assured that we will help you understand if a guardianship, conservatorship, trust, or other legal mechanism is the best way to protect your family member. Contact Surprenant & Beneski, PC, today to discuss your case with an experienced estate planning attorney.
The Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship
With a guardianship and conservatorship, a third party can assist a person unable to care for themselves. However, there are some essential differences between a guardianship and a conservatorship. A guardianship gives a third party the legal authority to make important decisions for a person with some type of reduced mental capacity. The third party is usually a family member, but not always. A legal guardian has the authority to make a wide range of decisions, not limited to a person’s financial affairs.
Conservatorships are limited in scope to an incapacitated person’s financial affairs. A conservatorship gives a third-party legal authority over an incapacitated person’s finances and business affairs. To obtain a conservatorship, the third party must show that the individual doesn’t have the capacity to manage some or all of his or her financial affairs.
Establishing Medical Care
In many cases, guardianship becomes necessary when a person with diminished capacity refuses to agree to medical treatment that will help them. It can be frustrating for family members to watch their loved ones refuse to take their medication and agree to treatment that can help them. Individuals with diminished mental capacity may not be able to understand and evaluate their medical needs and the treatments available.
When a guardianship is obtained, the guardian can ensure that the individual receives all of their needed medical treatment, including taking medication such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotic medication. The guardian can also ensure that their loved one attends medical appointments, including appointments with therapists or with their case manager. If you are concerned about your loved one not taking care of his or her medical needs, a guardianship could be the best option for you. The attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski, PC, can help you understand whether taking the step of pursuing a guardianship could help you and your loved one.
Addressing Financial Mismanagement With a Conservatorship or Guardianship
Financial mismanagement is another common reason loved ones pursue a guardianship or conservatorship. When an incapacitated individual has assets in his or her name, or to which he or she may be entitled through a trust, and can’t manage those assets, a conservatorship could be appropriate.
If your loved one is wasting a significant amount of money because of financial mismanagement, it can be challenging to recover it under the law. It’s important that you take quick action to protect your loved one and his or her assets. You may have long suspected that your incapacitated loved one has been mishandling money to an extreme degree. A drastic event could make you realize pursuing legal action may be necessary. For example, you may learn that your loved one has been taken advantage of financially by a fraudulent individual.
Perhaps your elderly loved one is mishandling their retirement and you’re concerned that they will run out of funds to care for themselves going forward. If your loved one is mentally impaired to the degree that a guardianship or conservatorship is necessary, we recommend reaching out to an attorney as soon as possible.
Understanding Your Legal Options When Assisting a Loved One
A guardianship or conservatorship can protect an individual who cannot care for himself or herself due to mental or physical incapacity. If you would like to establish a guardianship or conservatorship and obtain decision-making authority for your loved one, there are several requirements you will need to meet. Based on the evidence, the court will need to decide that the individual lacks the requisite capacity. You will be able to present evidence of how your loved one’s diminished capacity affects his or her daily life, including health care, daily living activities, and finances.
Making harmful decisions isn’t enough to qualify as a person for a guardianship or a conservatorship. Even when a person isn’t fully functioning, they may still have enough capacity to complete the daily tasks they need to complete safely. However, when a person’s capacity is limited to the extent that they cannot sufficiently complete important daily tasks, the court will grant a guardianship or conservatorship.
Massachusetts courts attempt to provide individuals with autonomy. A judge may give a guardian limited authority to make decisions for the individual. Many families benefit from formal involvement through a conservatorship or guardianship. This process helps hold everyone accountable and ensures the individual receives the care he or she needs.
Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Estate Planning Attorney
If you are concerned about an elderly or disabled loved one being able to care for himself or herself, creating a guardianship or conservatorship could be beneficial. Taking guardianship of an incapacitated adult requires preparation, documentation, and more.
The Southeastern Massachusetts guardianship and conservatorship attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski, PC, are here to help you understand your options and what the process would look like for your family. We can advise you and help you take all the steps necessary to seek a guardianship and conservatorship. Reach out to Surprenant & Beneski, PC, today to learn more about how we can assist you and your loved one.