- Guardianship of the person
- Conservatorship of the finances (also called conservatorship of the estate)
- Emergency guardianship
“The purpose of any type of guardianship or conservatorship is to protect the senior.”
Alabama requires that guardianships and conservatorships go through the courts. If you are exploring how to best care for an aging loved one, you will want to know what types of guardianships there are, and which options are best for your friend or relative.
Does a senior under guardianship still have legal rights?
With all legal guardianships, the court transfers the right of the senior to decide for himself to the Guardian. This means the senior no longer has the authority to decide for himself.
Courts do not enter into these arrangements lightly since guardianship puts the senior at the mercy of the guardian. The court must first make a finding that the guardianship is in the elder’s best interests. The court must determine that it is better for the senior to have the guardian decide for him than to make them on his own. Any type of guardianship protects the senior. If the guardian mistreats the senior, the court can remove the guardian.
What is guardianship of the person?
When a senior loses the ability to decide about her day-to-day living situation or her health care, it may be necessary for the courts to appoint a guardian of the person. The guardian arranges home health care, making decisions about surgery and other medical procedures, arranging for a caregiver, moving the senior into an assisted living facility, making end-of-life decisions, and managing the daily well-being of the senior.
What is conservatorship of the finances?
A conservator of the finances also called a conservator of the estate, has the authority to act on behalf of the ward (the senior) on financial matters. This can include selling the ward’s house when he moves into an assisted care facility, handling his investments, paying his bills, managing his Social Security and retirement income and any other business or financial matters for the ward. Having a guardianship of the estate can protect the elderly person from scams and fraudulent schemes that prey on the aged.
When is an emergency guardianship appropriate?
It may be necessary to obtain an emergency guardianship if your loved one’s medical condition suddenly deteriorates, or he suffers a serious accident or sudden medical event such as a stroke. If the senior is the victim of financial abuse, whether by professional scammers, friends, family, or caregivers, you may also need to get emergency guardianship order to prevent irreparable economic harm.
Are there alternatives to guardianship?
Yes, but they require taking action only if the senior is still legally competent. These alternatives include:
- Joint bank accounts
- A trust
- Durable power of attorney (for financial and business decisions)
- Advance Directive for Healthcare
- Designating someone as representative payee to receive Social Security payments
Besides being competent when taking these steps, the senior must also have a friend, relative or company (such as a bank) who can be trusted to act in the best interests of the senior, and be willing to take on this responsibility.
The laws on guardianship and conservatorship differ from state to state. Therefore, consult with an elder law attorney in your area, if you have questions about a legal guardianship.
Garvin, Lisa. “Guardianship and Caregiver Liability.”https://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/guardianshipliability.html
Sollitto, Marlo. “How to Get Guardianship of a Senior.” https://www.agingcare.com/articles/how-to-get-guardianship-of-elderly-parents-140693.htm
A Place For Mom, Inc. “Making Sense of Guardianship.” http://www.alzheimers.net/guardianship-for-parent-with-alzheimers/