06 Feb Guardianship Duties for Aging Parents in Phoenix
As a second generation firm in Estate Planning, Phelps LaClair has been helping folks like you understand the guardianship duties for aging parents in Phoenix and the surrounding area. A legal guardianship is similar to, but somewhat different from a power of attorney. What follows is a brief summary of those responsibilities you will assume if a court appoints you as the legal guardian when your elderly parents can no longer take care of themselves.
Guardians of the Galaxy?
While it may not be a large galaxy, as a legal guardian it is your parents’ world you’re assigned to care for because they no longer can do so. Wise estate planning for your aging parents should include conveyance of power of attorney (POA) to a person or agent to act on their behalf, should they become incapable of handling their own affairs. Sadly, that is not always the case. And as a result of not establishing the proper POAs ahead of time, the court may need to appoint you as legal guardian to oversee your parents’ personal, medical, and financial affairs.
But a court-appointment for guardianship will include unwanted court costs and fees, as well as delays in being able to access their financial records and accounts. It could also mean family fighting, in the event that there are several family members who want to be the legal guardians. By establishing both a durable financial power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for health care before they’re needed, the extra costs and delays (as well as family squabbles) can easily be avoided. Simply planning ahead will not only give you and your parents peace of mind, it could save you the frustration of waiting for a court date and being unable to take action in a timely manner.
Oversee Welfare and Safety
But let’s say you didn’t plan ahead, and the court does eventually appoint you as the legal guardian for your elderly parents. What is involved in your responsibilities? First, you are in charge of their overall welfare and safety. This includes seeing to their protection and meeting their physical needs. Older parents may be able to function well with only part-time care; others may need more complete oversight. As their legal guardian, it will be up to you to decide where they will live, who will help them, and when they will transition to the next stage of full-time care.
You are also responsible for the medical care they will require. If they are still able to live somewhat independently, you’ll oversee doctor visits and any necessary in-home services. Of course, this includes making sure that all medications are available and taken on schedule. Do they need assisted living or full-time nursing care? That decision will be yours, in consultation with their doctors. Depending on their remaining physical, mental and emotional capacities, this transition may come sooner or later than expected.
As a legal guardian you will also have the authority and responsibility to manage their finances. It will be up to you to decide how their money is spent. You will control their bank accounts and manage their assets, retirement accounts, royalties, etc. You will need to record all expenditures made on their behalf and keep all of the financial books. You will be called upon to provide documentation to a court of law.
Planning for Reality
As you can see through this brief overview, being named a legal guardian is a serious undertaking. With more than 40 years of experience in estate planning, Phelps LaClair is here to help you plan for the future. Establishing a Living Trust and durable powers of attorney while your parents still have all their faculties is a much better solution to planning for the possibility of mental or physical incapacitation. That pre-planning avoids the uncertainties and costs of probate court, including legal guardianship duties for aging parents in Phoenix. For a more complete understanding of a Living Trust and/or setting up durable powers of attorney for yourself or your parents, come in and sit down with us. We’re here for you, and together, we can work out plans for a better future for you and your parents.