Guardianships are a legal way for people to protect someone in a vulnerable position. Mental health issues, cognitive decline due to age and severe physical illness could all potentially lead to either loved ones or unrelated professionals filing paperwork for an involuntary guardianship.
If the courts agree and name someone as your guardian, you will effectively lose control over your personal circumstances. While it is possible to end a guardianship, it is often better to avoid one in the first place.
Careful estate planning can empower someone else to fulfill all the duties of a guardian while you still have the testamentary capacity to make that decision for yourself. What are some of the warning signs that you could be at risk of a guardianship later in life?
One of your parents had Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the best-known age-related illnesses in part because of how common it is and because of how debilitating it can be for the adults affected by this condition. Some people have slow onset later in life, while others may experience rapid onset add an age much earlier than they might expect.
If someone in your immediate family, especially a parent, had Alzheimer’s disease later in life, you may want to plan ahead in case you eventually develop that condition too.
You come from a family of long-lived people
Even if there isn’t a family history of specific illnesses, having numerous older family members live into their nineties or beyond is a warning sign that you may age more than the average person. Although many people will age gracefully throughout their final years, some people will have cognitive issues that require other people to act on their behalf for medical and financial purposes.
You have a history of physical or mental health issues
If you have previously experienced involuntary mental health hospitalization or extreme physical ailments that prevented you from caring for yourself, you may eventually need the support of a guardianship.
Recognizing that you could be vulnerable when you get older may motivate you to create a framework now that will protect you as you get older. A trust managed by someone who will put your needs first and powers of attorney are among the tools that can help you retain control over your finances and medical care when the state might otherwise leave you at the mercy of a guardianship, possibly sought by a professional and not a member of your immediate family.
Carefully addressing possible future risks will help you create an estate plan that protects you and the people you love even in unusual situations.