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When to seek guardianship for an aging parent?

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2018 | Estate Planning |

As your parents age, you have likely started to notice little changes in their behaviors. Maybe you noticed your mom forgot to take her medications or you dad didn’t pay the electric bill this month. Sometimes incidents like these are regular accidents, but sometimes they are signs of a parent’s deteriorating health.

If you have noticed signs of a parent’s deteriorating health, you may be wondering when is the right time to start taking over some of their responsibilities. There are several legal ways to do this, but you may be met with some resistance from your parent, who might view these changes as a loss of freedom. While it is important to work with your parent to maintain his or her freedom as long as possible, there is a point in which it is no longer in his or her best interest and you may need to consider petitioning for guardianship.

As a guardian, you would be able to make personal or financial decisions for your parent, but for you to gain guardianship, the court must find your parent’s decision-making ability impaired. Florida courts will only consider guardianship when there are no less-restrictive alternatives available, but the courts are able to grant either voluntary or involuntary guardianship.

According to a recent Forbes article, the following circumstances are examples of some situations that warrant your petition of guardianship:

  • Refusal to sign a power of attorney. Power of attorney can only be established when your parent is of sound mind. If your parent is no longer able to sign a power of attorney and no longer able to take care of himself or herself, it is time to seek guardianship.
  • Disagreement over a nursing home. If a parent needs to be admitted to a nursing home, but refuses to go, you can petition for guardianship. This will give you the authority to make the decision that is in your parent’s best interest.
  • Medical intervention beyond the health care surrogate. Even if your parent has a health care surrogate, the surrogate may have no authority in some situations. For example, if the attending physician does not give a written statement that your parent is unable to give informed consent, even if your parent clearly cannot do so, the health care surrogate has no power, and you will have to petition for guardianship to make medical decisions for your parent.
  • Decision-making is compromised in some areas. If you can tell your parent needs help in only some areas, you are able to seek limited guardianship in Florida. This will grant you the right to make decisions in the areas your parent is unable to.

It is difficult to watch a parent struggle with day to day activities, and it is hard to know when the right time is to step in and pursue guardianship. However, guardianship is a necessary step many adult children must take to protect their aging parents.