May was celebrated as Elder Law Month, and as the baby boomer generation ages, guardianship of an elder may be a growing concern. Although guardianship is most often discussed regarding minor children, it can be a helpful tool for older family members, too.
One in three people age 65 or older will contract some form of simple disability (cognition, vision or hearing impairment, the inability to get around without assistance, etc.). A diagnosis of such a disability may highlight the difficulty that individual faces in daily living. More difficult than basic aging or simple disability is the presence of Alzheimer’s; according to the Alzheimer’s Association five million are living with it presently, at a cost in 2013 amounting to $203 billion.
Being watchful for the signs of Alzheimer’s can be an important step in recognizing the need to consider guardianship: among them, memory loss affecting daily living; the inability to complete familiar tasks; misplacing things; confusion over either time or place.
If the elder person does not have a power of attorney or advance directive, you can go into court and seek a declaration of incompetence. Subsequent appointment as a guardian will mean assuming decision-making for living arrangements, the management of finances and medical choices–the last two critical as out-of-pocket costs for older Americans have jumped 46 percent since the year 2000.The guardian has the legal duty to act in the best interest of the ward, and only in those areas permitted by the court. Those looking into guardianship for older parents may want to evaluate their own estate plans at the same time.
Difficulties may extend or render contentious the achieving of a guardianship role. If other family members cannot agree on the need, or on the proper person, the process can be lengthy. Further, the elder individual has the legal right to contest, and the determination of the court will only follow upon extensive expert evidence. Planning for your needs in advance can be extremely helpful for reducing family conflict. To learn more about applying for guardianship in New Jersey or planning to avoid the need, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.