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Guardianships: When a protective party needs to step in

In many instances, the wishes of a person regarding financial matters, end-of-life decisions and other important issues can be optimally carried out through an experienced estate planning attorney's assistance in establishing trusts, powers of attorney and other planning tools.

At other times, though, such as when a person can no longer make reasoned and sound decisions owing to incapacity (old age or disability, for example), such tools can lose effectiveness. In certain cases, it becomes necessary for a trusted person to step forward to provide the requisite care needed by a loved one who can no longer command full authority over key life and planning decisions.

When that need arises, establishment of a guardianship can ensure that a person needing protection in various areas (such person commonly being called a "ward") receives the care that he or she needs.

Guardianships come in various types and apply to certain matters that are relevant in a ward’s life. A guardian of the person, for example, makes important decisions concerning a ward’s health and medical treatment. A guardian of the estate can attend to management of a ward’s assets, property and income.

What is important is that a guardianship be carefully established and with the proper guardian appointed. Oftentimes, a family member or other loved one serves most logically as a guardian, but in other instances -- and often owing to the significant duties and time expenditures required of many guardians -- another person might be a more suitable representative.

There is much to think about when a guardianship is contemplated, including the obvious fact that a guardian is tasked to always act in the best interests of a ward. A proven estate planning lawyer with close knowledge of the guardianship process and with broad experience over guardianship matters can answer questions and help ensure that the right decisions are made.

Source: Fox Business, "What you should know about guardianships," Andrea Murad, Aug. 30, 2013

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