Could your elderly parent need a guardian?

As our parents age, it is natural for us to think about who will step in to make their financial and medical decisions when they are no longer able to do so. This becomes much more of a concern if they are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The best course of action to take is to make sure that your parents have a financial and a medical power of attorney in place so that the person they choose to make their decisions will be able to step in when appropriate.

However, this is not a possibility if a parent has already become incapacitated, no longer able to make decisions for himself or herself. In this case, you may be able to make some financial and medical decisions for your parent. Most likely, you will run into road blocks from banks and other financial institutions and from medical providers. They have a legal duty to protect their client’s (your parent’s) privacy and property. When this happens the only option may be to seek guardianship.

Isn’t guardianship for children?

Many people think of the term guardianship when they think of child custody. But in Texas, a person who has custody of a child is called a conservator. There are times when a child may need a guardian, but by and large guardianships are put in place for incapacitated adults. Depending on the type and severity of the incapacity, the court may appoint a guardian of the person, a guardian of the estate, or both.

What are the steps to take if your parent needs a guardian?

The best first step is to consult with a guardianship attorney who can advise you on the options that may be available. Under Texas law, there are many alternatives to guardianship. Before a court will order a guardianship, there must be evidence that there are no alternatives that will work for your parent.

If a guardianship is necessary, then you will need to obtain medical evidence of your parent’s incapacity. This is done by having a licensed physician examine your parent and complete a certificate of medical exam. This certificate helps the court to determine the nature and the severity of the incapacity.

Sometimes it may be impossible to obtain the certificate ahead of filing for guardianship. This is when an experienced guardianship attorney comes in handy. He or she knows the tools to use to obtain written medical proof of incapacity (and other necessary information) once the guardianship proceeding is under way. Further, no two guardianships are exactly alike, and some require many steps to bring the case to completion.

Only an attorney certified to practice guardianship law can represent clients in guardianship cases. If you believe that your parent may need a guardian, it is important to obtain advice from an experienced guardianship attorney. He or she can provide advice and information on the different types of guardianships, on whether guardianship is necessary for your parent, and on the steps to take if guardianship is necessary.