Are you an adult child who has been growing increasingly concerned about a parent’s physical and/or mental health? If so, it may be time to consider guardianship. Like most people, however, you may be hesitant to even think about pursuing guardianship proceedings, much less actually act on those thoughts. After all, doesn’t guardianship effectively take aware the ward’s freedom and independence? Can you bring yourself to do that to a parent (or other elderly loved one)? While reservations such as these are completely normal under the circumstances, it is imperative to also remember that failing to act could result in serious physical and/or emotional harm befalling your parent. Your parent could also wind up the victim of unscrupulous predators who target the elderly for financial crimes. The best way to know if it is truly time to pursue guardianship is to discuss your situation with an experienced North Carolina guardianship lawyer.
What Is an Adult Guardianship?
Guardianship is a legal arrangement that gives one person the legal authority and fiduciary duty to handle the financial affairs of another person and/or make day to day decisions for that person, referred to as a “ward.” An adult guardianship can only be accomplished by petitioning a court and convincing the court that a guardian is needed. Because guardianship is considered to most restrictive option, courts will often consider less restrictive options first if they are available.
How Do I Know When a Guardian Is Needed?
Unfortunately, there is no universally applicable “test” you can take that will tell you if guardianship is warranted in your situation. The need for a guardian is something that must be analyzed on a case by case basis; however, there are some common signs that a guardian may be needed, including:
- Excessive and unexplained injuries
- Unpaid bills when the funds should be available to pay them
- Forgetting common facts or details such as the names of close family members
- Missed appointments with no explanation
- Utilities or services being disconnected or stopped for non-payment
- Forgetting to take medication as prescribed
- Missing funds or property without an explanation
How Can a Guardianship Lawyer Help?
If you are concerned about your parent, there is a good chance that you have good cause to be concerned. As your parent ages, his/her physical and mental deterioration is inevitable to some extent. Sometimes changes will occur overnight while in other cases the changes are gradual; however, if you are starting to get alarmed it is time to consult with an experienced North Carolina guardianship lawyer. This is one of those situations where it is better to be safe than sorry because your parent could suffer serious physical or financial harm if you wait too long to step in and do something.
Your North Carolina guardianship lawyer can evaluate the situation objectively and help you decide if guardianship is, indeed, warranted or whether a less restrictive alternative would suffice for now. If it is, your guardianship lawyer can help you prepare the petition and file it with the appropriate court. For the court to appoint a guardian, your parent must first be declared an “incompetent person,” defined as follows:
“an adult or emancipated minor who lacks sufficient capacity to manage the adult’s own affairs or to make or communicate important decisions concerning the adult’s person, family, or property whether the lack of capacity is due to mental illness, mental retardation, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, inebriety, senility, disease, injury, or similar cause or condition.”
Typically, you will need to gather evidence supporting your petition for guardianship which is something else your attorney can help you accomplish. Evidence usually includes reports from treating physicians and/or mental health professionals that will convince the judge of the need for a guardian. Finally, your guardianship lawyer will also help you convince the judge that you are an appropriate choice for guardian of your parent.
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about guardianship in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced elder law attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.