The question of what happens when elderly parents lost their abilities is one that many Florida residents face on a daily basis. No one likes getting older, but being prepared for what aging can do to us and our loved ones is the responsible thing to do. If you have aging parent, it may be necessary to ask a court to name a guardian over them. What is a guardian, and how does the guardianship process work? Let’s take a look at some basic questions surrounding this issue.
What is a guardian?
A guardian is a person who is legally entitled to make decisions on behalf of someone else. Most people know that guardians can, for example, make choices on behalf of children, but there can also be guardians who make decisions for incapacitated adults, known as wards. Only a court can appoint a guardian. The court must hold a hearing, determine that the ward is truly incapacitated, and then choose who should serve as that person’s legal guardian.
How can I tell if my elderly parents need a guardian?
This is often one of the most difficult questions when it comes to elderly parents and their adult children. While natural declines in abilities are common as everyone ages, those declines don’t necessarily mean that the elderly parents need a guardian. For example, a parent who occasionally forgets where he or she placed the car keys is usually not enough to require a court to appoint a guardian, but a parent who is unable to keep track of bills or who forgets information that affects his or her daily life will probably need some kind of assistance.
Determining whether elderly parents need a guardian is often a question that can only be answered by experts, such as medical professionals. However, even if everyone thinks a person needs an adult guardian, the final decision always rests with a court.
Can my parents control who makes choices for them, or the kinds of choices that get made?
Yes. As long as your parents are mentally capable, they can make estate plans that control what will happen to them in the future should they lose their capacity to make choices. There are multiple estate planning devices that allow them to do this, such as durable powers of attorney, and health care directives, but all of them require your parents to act now
If you haven’t already discussed the issue with your parents, talking to them about their wishes could go far to help you, and them, avoid what could otherwise be a big problem for both of you.