As your parents and grandparents become older, there may come a time when they can no longer care for their own financial or healthcare affairs. In these situations, it is important to take proper steps to confirm their ability or inability to make their own choices. It is also important to understand how someone else can legally make financial and/or healthcare decisions for them.
Sometimes it may be unclear as to whether or not a parent or grandparent has the capacity to make heir own financial and healthcare decisions. Other times it may be very clear. You may notice that your parent or grandparent gradually starts to forget things. You may notice that one day they appear mentally sharp and the next day they appear to be incoherent or irrational. Since determining one’s mental capacity is not always clear, it is prudent to rely on medical professionals who can competently evaluate the individual and make a diagnosis. Often times this is required before someone else can legally act on behalf of another person whose capacity is in question.
Your parent or grandparent needs help. What are your options?
Once it is determined that a parent or grandparent can no longer make their own financial or healthcare decisions, the next step is to understand how the appropriate person can act for them.
Ideally, your parent or grandparent have executed power of attorney documents for their financial and healthcare decisions. These documents often allow someone who they have designated to make these decisions for them. They can also specify what types of decisions their agent can make and how much authority they have. Sometimes, these documents are sufficient in and of themselves.
Similarly, if your parent or grandparent has a trust, then the trust should have a provision that sets forth how a successor trustee can be appointed. This trustee should have the authority to manage the assets of the trust and use them for the benefit and needs of your parent or grandparent.
If your parent or grandparent does not have power of attorney or trust documents in place, then it is likely that a formal guardianship proceeding will need to be initiated. This process would allow for the guardianship court to appoint a legal guardian to make financial and/or health care decisions for the parent or grandparent. Typically, in order for someone to become the legal guardian for a parent or grandparent, it must be very clear and proven that the parent or grandparent is incapacitated to the point they cannot make their own decisions. Each state has specific rules and procedures pertaining to guardianship proceedings.
When it comes to considering whether a parent or grandparent requires legal assistance, it is important to take proper precautions to make sure they need help. If they do, it is crucial that the appropriate parties understand what options are available to make legal decisions on behalf of their parent or grandparent. In these situations, consulting with an experienced attorney will help you do what is best and what is legal so that your parent or grandparent can get the help they need.