Elder Guardianship

A recurring aspect of many guardianship proceedings is financial, physical and/or psychological abuse of the elderly. The abusers, unfortunately, can be children, friends, neighbors, care providers and (yes) occasionally attorneys. Money corrupts.   Guardianship can prevent elder abuse, protect an aging and impaired (and/or uncooperative) parent, sort out a custody fight between the children of that aging parent, or manage the money of a permanently impaired young medical malpractice victim. It can also help in situations where the children have moved away and the parent starts to decline unbeknownst to the children, because when no concerned family member is watching, the door is wide open for the exploiter.

Harmonious families can often avoid guardianship for their elderly and vulnerable relatives by using durable powers of attorney (for financial decisions) and health care proxies (for health care decisions). The most important attribute in caring for an incapacitated parent non-judicially is family harmony. When brothers and sisters are at each others’ throats, it is like a divorce, but with one significant difference. The combatants come from the same gene pool and they have a long, long history together — essentially since birth. A guardianship offers a structure for protecting the incapacitated parent, even if does little to effect reconciliation.

In another related scenario, an uncle or aunt may have been eccentric all their lives; but as they aged, they became increasingly isolated. They never married, they had no children and their sisters and brothers began to pass on. The nieces and nephews barely knew them. But a neighbor, a friend or another opportunist noticed, befriended them and then attempted to exploit them financially. Sometimes a guardianship will stop a scam in its tracks. Sometimes it is too late. It is rarely too late to try.