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How aging adults can avoid involuntary guardianship

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2023 | Estate Planning

The older someone becomes, the greater the risk that they will develop debilitating cognitive issues related to their age. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of multiple age-related health concerns that can affect someone’s mental capacity and legal authority.

Those who experience a marked decline in independent living skills could end up subject to involuntary guardianship. Their family members or even professional caregivers might ask the state to grant them authority over their medical and financial matters. The courts will consider someone’s behavior and their medical records when determining if a guardianship is necessary.

Thankfully, those who plan ahead of time can avoid the risk of guardianship by putting protective paperwork in place before age or health issues start to affect their legal authority.

What documents prevent guardianship?

In theory, by the time someone may require a guardianship, they will lack the legal right to create enforceable documents. However, adults over the age of 18 can potentially draft powers of attorney long before health issues compromise their testamentary capacity.

Durable powers of attorney retain their authority even if the courts declare someone permanently incapacitated. Those who create powers of attorney before their health declines theoretically have the authority to name their own agent to act on their behalf and can also provide detailed instructions about what they want regarding the management of their finances and the healthcare that they receive.

Powers of attorney remain enforceable until someone dies, at which point they lose their authority and the estate planning documents dictate what happens next.

Advanced planning protects people from the uncertainty of life

Some people will live into their 90s or beyond and never notice any significant reduction in cognitive function. Others could develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and struggle from the earliest days of retirement to manage their own affairs.

Given that people never know what the future may hold, it is beneficial for adults to have estate planning documents in place that address all kinds of theoretical issues before their health starts to decline. Adding powers of attorney to an estate plan with the assistance of a legal professional can be a smart move for those who worry about what might happen to them as they age.