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What does guardianship entail?

Estate planning is often thought of in terms of distributing and protecting assets in the case of death or incapacitation, and this is a significant portion of estate planning matters. However, estate planning also includes establishment of guardianship, or laying out what you wish to be done regarding your personal care, and specifying who you wish to be charged with your care, in the event that you cannot care for yourself.

Guardianship is too often established after an incapacitating event has already occurred. In these cases, a court is tasked with appointing a guardian, if none has been previously appointed in an existing estate plan or will. A person who has a sudden accident and is left incapacitated without having established power of attorney or specific directives concerning medical decisions will be at the mercy of the court to appoint an individual responsible for making all of these decisions. It is easy to see how advantageous it is to appoint a guardian and specify medical wishes before it becomes necessary.

Guardians are granted broad power and responsibility in regard to the ward in their care. A guardian is capable of making any financial decisions for the ward, as well as any medical decisions. Other responsibilities include making sure that care is available for the ward, and keeping the court updated on the ward's condition. While the guardian is not responsible to actually provide care services for the ward, they are expected to be in charge of decision-making for the ward.

Regardless of the nature of your assets, and other things that are often a part of an estate plan or will, it is obvious that you almost certainly do not want a court to make decisions about who should be in charge of you if you become incapacitated. If you believe that establishing guardianship is for you, a Massachusetts attorney with estate planning experience can help walk you though the process.

Source: FindLaw, "Guardianship of Incapacitated or Disabled Persons," accessed Sep. 30, 2016

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