on adult children as well as the person in need of care. Whether the elder requiring care needs assistance with medical decision-making or everyday tasks, guardianship is often the most practical option for all involved. Guardianship allows a caretaker to make decisions for an elder if he or she does not have a will or power of attorney prior to becoming incapacitated.
Guardians are required by law to make decisions in the best interest of the individual for which they are responsible. This has the unfortunate but often necessary consequence of taking away certain legal rights from the elder, but it is often the only way that he or she can be properly cared for in legal matters. Court-appointed guardians are given sole discretion in matters of finance as well as medical care.
When to Appoint a Guardian
Guardians, also known as conservators, may be appointed if a court becomes aware that an elderly person or another person lacks the mental capacity to provide for his or her own needs. Once someone is unable to make informed decisions, he or she may still be able to legally object to the appointment of a conservator and seek legal counsel.
Responsibilities of Guardianship
The elderly parent of someone who is awarded guardianship is known in legal terms as a ward. If you are appointed as your parent’s guardian, you are responsible for his or her residential accommodations, facilitating medical care, managing finances, applying for benefits, handling investments and monitoring non-medical services. Such services may include education and ensuring that your parent receives counseling, if necessary.
As a court-appointed guardian, you may also have the difficult task of making end-of-life decisions for your parent. Guardians are also responsible for releasing confidential information to medical professionals and other individuals and organizations as necessary. Guardians are required to keep records of all expenses and represent their wards in matters of finance, making timely payments to ensure the upkeep of the ward’s financial estate. Maximizing independence is a key goal for any guardian, and it is important to regularly update the court about the state of the ward’s affairs on a minimum annual basis.
The Nature of the Guardian-Ward Relationship
The transition from adult child to the guardian of an incapacitated parent is a difficult one, and legal counsel can provide valuable guidance to make the process as smooth as possible. Texas law allows for multiple types of guardianship, including surrogate decision-making, temporary guardianship and long-term guardianship of both individual and estate matters.
The type of guardianship that is appropriate for your situation depends on a variety of factors, and it is always important to ensure that the ward feels as included in the process as possible. By keeping these guidelines in mind and maintaining a focus on helping your elderly parent maintain the degree of agency they are capable of managing, the transfer of guardianship will be easier for all involved.