How to Avoid Having to Obtain a Guardianship for an Ailing Parent

Do you have an elderly parent you are concerned about, especially if they’re beginning to show signs of mental impairment or difficulty handling their personal affairs? If a parent becomes mentally incapacitated, you may have to obtain a guardianship in order to manage his or her finances or medical care.  Guardianships are extremely costly and time-consuming, and necessitate that the court supervise all actions taken on behalf of the ailing parent.  At Morgan Law Center, we recommend that guardianship proceedings be avoided if at all possible.  How?  Let’s find out.

A comprehensive estate plan is the best way to ensure that your parent’s wishes are followed when or if they become incapacitated.  In addition to creating a will or trust to direct the distribution of assets at your parent’s death, a good estate plan should always include a financial power of attorney, and advance health care directives in which the parent designates a trusted person to make health care decisions in the event the parent can’t do so for him or herself.

  • Financial Power of Attorney:  This document, known in Florida as a General Durable Power of Attorney, grants a trusted person, known as the attorney-in-fact, the power and authority to pay bills, and manage property transactions, investments, and bank accounts.  Make sure your parent’s power of attorney also grants the attorney-in-fact the power to establish a Medicaid-qualification trust, as one may be essential to your parent’s ability to qualify for long-term care benefits that will pay for nursing home care.    
  • Advance Health Care Directives:  Two documents are important here:  (1) Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and (2) Living Will.   The Designation of Health Care Surrogate will enable your parent to name the person he or she wants to make health care decisions if the parent can’t do so for him or herself, and will also waive the HIPAA restrictions so that the designated person can access the parent’s medical information.  The Living Will sets forth the parent’s wishes with regard to end-of-life medical treatment.  

In addition to the above, if your parent creates a living trust as part of his or her estate plan, the trust should designate an “incapacity trustee” to manage the assets held in the trust during incapacity, as well as instructions on how the assets are to be used and managed.  

Your parent must be mentally competent to create an estate plan, so the sooner the plan is in place, the better.  Once your parent becomes incapacitated, it will be too late. 

Do you have an aging parent that you’re concerned about? If your parents haven’t created a comprehensive estate plan, now is a great time to bring the topic to their attention, before it’s too late. Fortunately, the skilled legal team at Morgan Law Center in Lake City, Florida can help. Give our office a call today. We have a proven track record of helping families navigate the estate planning process. Call us at 386-755-1977 to schedule a consultation.