I have assisted more than 150 individuals & families through the guardianship process.
A guardian is a person appointed by a court to serve as a substitute decision maker for a person called a ward who, because of an impairment, is found by a court to be incompetent. The court may give the guardian authority to make personal decisions for the ward, including providing informed consent for health care and medication, deciding where the ward will live, and deciding who will provide social and supportive services for the ward. This type of guardian is a “guardian of the person.” The court also can give the guardian authority to manage the ward’s money and other property. This type of guardian is a “conservator of the estate.”
The court will appoint one or more guardians to meet the conservator’s needs. Some wards need only one type of guardian. The court can appoint one person as conservator of the estate and another as guardian of the person. Often, if the ward needs both types, the court will appoint the same person to be guardian of the person and conservator.
The role of the guardian is distinguished from the role of a conservator by the nature of the decisions they are each authorized to make. Guardians are authorized to make certain personal decisions while conservators are authorized to make financial decisions.
It is possible to avoid the necessity of a guardianship through estate planning. A good estate plan will include a medical power of attorney which will enable a trusted individual to make health care decisions for you in the event of incapacity, and a general durable power of attorney to permit a trusted individual to manage your personal affairs. To a considerable extent, those documents can specify how you wish to live, and how you wish to be treated, in the event of disability – whereas a court or guardian may make decisions with which you would disagree. In most cases, when these documents have been executed in accord with the laws of your state, it will not be necessary for your loved ones to seek the appointment of a guardian or conservator should something happen to you – something that can be difficult and emotionally taxing at an already difficult time.
Before starting this process, it may help to talk to a lawyer who is familiar with guardianship procedure. If you are unsure about whether you should hire a lawyer, it is a good idea to talk to one about your case before you decide whether you can handle it alone.
For assistance, contact an experienced Minnesota litigation lawyer at the firm of Your Family Guardian Law Firm Law Office. We represent clients throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area including Edina, Plymouth, Bloomington, and St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Contact us at 612-604-5146.