Duties of a Legal Guardian for the Elderly
August 15, 2019
Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, brain damage from stroke or injury, and extended life spans can all contribute to incompetence in the elderly. When an elderly person becomes incompetent, the court can assign a legal guardian to manage the individual’s finances, daily activities, and decisions for medical care and living arrangements. The elderly person loses their rights to manage their own affairs, so legal guardianship is most often a last resort taken by the court. The decision to appoint a legal guardian can be an emotional one for the elderly person and their family.
There are many reasons that an elderly person needs a legal guardian. If they become incapacitated physically or mentally to the point where they can no longer manage their finances, care for their personal hygiene, or manage medication and nutrition, a legal guardian can make decisions that ensure their personal and financial health is protected. The legal guardian appointed by the court can be a spouse or domestic partner, a relative or friend of the elderly person, or a state or local government representative. In some cases, the elderly person may be mentally competent enough to suggest a person they prefer for legal guardianship. In this case, the judge can consider the elderly person’s suggestion.
The appointed guardian has a legal responsibility, or duty of care, to make decisions based on the best interests of the elderly person. These types of decisions can include:
- Financial management of retirement benefits, social security income, and trusts or estates
- Hiring home health care needed for personal hygiene, medication management, and nutrition
- Placement in an assisted living or nursing home facility
- Coordination of social activities
- Medical decisions for management of health or emergencies
The court-appointed guardian for the elderly person has the duty of making decisions that protect the health and welfare of the person and ensure that their finances and quality of life are properly managed.
Are There Options Available to Legal Guardianship?
Elder guardianship is a last resort taken by a court to protect an incapacitated person. Fortunately, there are many options available for an elderly person to consider before they become incapacitated.
- Living Wills and Trusts: An elderly person can name a specific person, such as an adult child, relative, or trusted friend to handle their financial affairs if they become incapacitated.
- Representative Payeeship: The elderly individual can appoint a person to manage their government benefits and income, such as social security, disability, and Medicare benefits.
- Power of Attorney: This form of appointment grants another person the legal right to act on behalf of the elderly to make financial and medical decisions if they are unable to do so themselves.
- Standby Guardianship: Though not a legal option in all states, an elderly person may be able to appoint a standby guardian to take over the management of their finances and care if they can no longer do so by themselves.
Brooklyn Guardianship Lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP Help the Elderly Plan for Their Future
If you or someone you know needs a legal guardian for an elderly relative or friend, call the Brooklyn guardianship lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP at 212-495-8133 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Our Brooklyn, New York, and Lakewood, New Jersey offices serve clients throughout Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester, New York.