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The Danger of Guardianships

Musician Britney Spears, Artist Peter Max, and the Netflix movie “I Care a Lot” are a few of the headliners related to guardianships and conservatorships lately.  The picture they paint is a bit of a scary one and one that is often avoidable.  The picture is also one that is unusual, at least in my experience.  Regardless, it is a scenario that can be avoided by estate planning.

Is there a lot more behind the scenes in guardianships that avoids the headlines?  Of course.  There are the bad eggs out there (like with just about any profession or industry) and the law does its best to prosecute those persons and the legislature makes revisions to the law too at times.  That is the same way a lot of the law works though.  That is why it is ever evolving.  When someone finds a loophole or takes advantage of the system, the legislature has to get to work.  The process is one that has several checks and balances though.  There are also plenty of incredible family members, friends, and professionals out there dedicating their lives to help others.  Many attorneys, paralegals, assistants, and professional guardians I know give hours upon hours to help others in these types of cases while getting paid very little or nothing at all.  What many of the persons in these cases deal with is often very difficult due to the conditions of the wards and the family dynamics.

Often times, when I meet with a client to discuss their estate plan, the topic of death and what happens is at the forefront of the conversation.  That is perfectly natural and normal.  Whatever your belief, when we die, most, if not all, people want to make sure their final wishes are carried out.  They want their family, friends, or charities to receive something (or sometimes not) and they want to know that their remains will be dealt with the way they want.  What people often neglect or think very little about is what exactly happens before that.  What happens if they are in an accident or if they get dementia.  The thought isn’t always the fun thing to think about, but it is incredibly important.  Who do you want taking care of you and your assets?  Who do you want making medical decisions for you?  Do you have a plan?

Setting up various documents, like powers of attorney and pre-need guardian designations, can be extremely important and helpful to avoid any need for a guardianship or if one is necessary then to help advise the Court on who the guardian should be.  The other reason setting up an estate plan is important is because of the cost.  Guardianships are typically far more expensive (even uncontested) than the average estate plan.  Additionally, designating clear agents often avoids disputes that can lead to litigation and be extremely expensive.  Bottom line: it is worth setting up some plan or at least discussing the risks, costs, and savings with someone experienced in estate planning.

If you need assistance with a guardianship, estate planning or a similar matter, feel free to contact Mason Williams.