The idea of being subject to guardianship terrifies many people. No one wants to picture a future in which they have lost personal autonomy, but that is exactly what guardianship can mean. A family member, friend or professional caregiver could decide that you have not adequately provided for your own needs in recent months and seek court intervention.
If the courts agree with them, you could lose control over what happens with your money and even over your living circumstances. A guardian will have control over your resources and your daily life. Thankfully, if you plan ahead before your health or cognitive function declines, you can take steps now to avoid guardianship later.
How do you prevent a future guardianship?
There is no way to know what will happen to your health and cognitive function as you age. Even those who are fiercely independent at the start of their golden years may eventually require daily support.
The simplest way to avoid a potential guardianship later in life or after a debilitating medical event like a stroke is to already have durable powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney includes language that ensures the document retains its authority even when you become permanently incapacitated.
You can name someone to manage your medical care and someone else to take care of your financial matters. The documents can be as specific as you want them to be, so you can potentially draft powers of attorney that give very precise instructions and that limit what authority you pass to others. In a guardianship, they will be so no such limitations in place, largely putting you at the mercy of the individual named by the court to manage your care.
Naming someone you trust now is the best protection
You have no control over who requests a guardianship, which means that you could find your finances and medical decisions under the control of someone with whom you don’t have a particularly positive relationship.
Those who create powers of attorney while they are still healthy can prevent involuntary guardianship from stripping them of control over their own lives later. Creating an estate plan that includes powers of attorney can be a way to protect yourself as well as the people you love with your estate plan.