As estate planning experts, we often talk to clients about choosing guardians for family members in the event these family members can’t care for themselves. If your child is left without parents, she’ll need a guardian. If your parents can’t manage their care, they may need a guardian. But what about you? What will happen if you become injured, ill or incapacitated, and you can’t make decisions about your own healthcare or finances? Who can be trusted to make these decisions on your behalf?
If you’ve recently created or revised your estate plan, you probably completed a document called a Financial Power of Attorney. This document authorizes a chosen person to handle your financial affairs, such as writing checks from your accounts, singing contracts, etc. If you become unable to do these things for yourself, the person you chose can immediately step in and take care of them for you. But some transactions are more complicated and require decisions and actions beyond simply writing a check. For these larger issues, a third party may want to negotiate with someone who has more authority than a Financial Power of Attorney can grant. To prepare for cases like these, you’ll want to appoint someone as your Guardian.
A Guardian serves as a court-appointed agent, and once you’ve chosen them, they have the court’s authority to handle your financial affairs if you cannot. Most courts typically grant guardianship to the person you’ve named as your agent in your Financial Power of Attorney. If you don’t have this document prepared, the laws of your state will determine those in line to be appointed. Potential candidates may include parents, siblings, spouses or adult children who you would not necessarily have chosen on your own. Complete your Financial Power of Attorney and the court will understand and execute your wishes.
Answer these questions as you choose candidates:
- Does your candidate have the time to act as your guardian? Sometimes, the most knowledgeable people in your circle are also those who are likely to feel burdened by this task, or vice versa. Make sure your candidates have both the skills AND the time and mental energy to take care of you.
- Does your candidate live close by? Since many issues require in-person interactions, choose someone who can easily travel to the place where you live.
- Does your candidate have the right skill sets? Appropriate guardians are organized, detail oriented, and clear communicators. Avoid choosing someone who lacks a cool-headed and reliable temperament.
If you’d like to complete a Financial Power of Attorney or choose a guardian, contact us today. We’ll arrange an appointment and help you name someone who can step in and accept this essential role.