Acquiring Guardianship of an Aging Parent: A Guide to Navigating the Legal Process

woman embracing her mother
  • Understand the different types of guardianship available: general, limited, plenary, and guardian ad litem.
  • Talk to your parent before petitioning for guardianship.
  • Hire a probate attorney to guide you through the process.
  • File a petition with the court and notify family members.
  • Attend the court hearing and present evidence that guardianship is necessary.

Watching our parents age can be complex, especially when they lose their independence. When a parent’s mental or physical health starts to deteriorate, it may be necessary to provide additional care or assistance.

However, if your parent cannot make important decisions for themselves, it may be necessary to gain guardianship. While it may seem daunting, gaining custody of an elderly parent can be straightforward if you follow these steps.

Understand the Different Types of Guardianship

Before you begin gaining guardianship, it’s essential to understand the different types of guardianship available. But what are the different kinds of power available, and how can you determine which one is right for your elderly parent? Here are the various types of guardianship and their significance.

General Guardianship

General guardianship is a court-appointed guardianship when an elderly parent is deemed incapacitated. This type of guardianship allows the guardian to handle all legal and financial matters on behalf of the incapacitated parent. This includes making important decisions like healthcare, finances, and property matters.

The guardian has the authority to act as the legal representative of the incapacitated parent. In most cases, general guardianship is granted when there is no other relative or suitable person to work in the best interest of the elderly parent.

Limited Guardianship

adult son with senior mom

A limited guardianship is implemented when an elderly parent needs assistance with specific decisions. Unlike general guardianship, little custody only grants a guardian authority to make decisions in specific areas of the incapacitated parent’s life.

For example, if an elderly parent needs help managing their finances, the guardian will only have authority over that aspect of the parent’s life. Limited guardianship is usually granted when the elderly parent can still make independent decisions about some aspects of their life.

Plenary Guardianship

Plenary guardianship is a legal arrangement that puts an individual in charge of every aspect of the incapacitated parent’s life. A plenary guardian makes healthcare decisions, manages the elderly parent’s finances and property, and handles all other matters related to the aging parent’s welfare.

This type of guardianship is usually granted in cases where the elderly parent cannot make any decisions regarding their life.

Guardian Ad Litem

Guardian Ad Litem is a court-appointed individual responsible for advocating for the best interests of elderly parents. The guardian ad litem’s role is to investigate and evaluate the needs of the incapacitated parent, and then to make recommendations to the court.

The guardian ad litem can be used in any type of guardianship case to ensure that the elderly parent’s needs are met and their rights are not violated.

Talk to Your Parent

While gaining guardianship may be necessary, talking to your parent about the decision is crucial. If your parent has the capacity to understand the situation, it’s important to discuss your concerns and why you believe guardianship is necessary. This can help prevent any potential legal challenges in the future.

Hire an Attorney

female lawyer

To petition for guardianship, you will likely need an attorney. Hiring a probate attorney is key in ensuring a smooth and efficient process. An attorney can assist in navigating complex legal matters and ensure all necessary documents are filed correctly.

By having legal representation, the stress and uncertainty of the guardianship process can be minimized, allowing for a more positive outcome for both you and your loved one.

Fill Out the Petition

Once you have hired an attorney, they will help you fill out the petition for guardianship. The petition will include basic information about your parent, why custody is necessary, and the type of guardianship you seek. You must file the petition with the court and notify your parent and other family members of the proceedings.

Attend the Court Hearing

After the petition is filed, a court hearing will be held to determine if guardianship is necessary. During the hearing, your attorney will present evidence to support your case, and your parent will have the opportunity to present their case.

After the hearing concludes, the court will decide whether guardianship is necessary. If guardianship is granted, you will be responsible for making decisions on behalf of your parent.

Wrapping Up

Gaining guardianship of an elderly parent can be difficult, but ensuring their safety and well-being is necessary. Remember, gaining guardianship is not about removing your parent’s independence but ensuring they receive the care and support they need as they age.

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