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How to avoid most guardianship matters

Guardianships, if possible, should be avoided. How? By planning ahead and preparing an estate plan which includes Durable Financial Powers of Attorney as well as Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. These documents permit you to name an agent to handle financial matters and an agent to make medical and end-of-life decisions.

Why is it better to avoid guardianships? If a family member is the subject of a guardianship proceeding, it means being involved in a court proceeding. If often means that no estate planning was done. A judge in Orphans' Court would need to appoint a guardian to make decisions on your behalf, who may not be the person that you would have chosen.

To help avoid guardianship proceedings, you should appoint an agent in a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and one in a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will while you are physically and mentally fit so that your future self is protected in case of a devastating accident or disease. If you wait until one of these debilitating events, you may be unable to choose who will help you and may be leaving the decision up to a judge.

When you make an estate plan, you can calmly select an agent who shares your values and outlook on life. Additionally, you can clearly communicate your vision for the future and what you would like the agent to do. Remember, appointing an agent does not strip you of your independence. Their role only kicks in if you need help or become incapacitated. The agent or agents you choose should be individuals you know and trust. They should be people to whom you would naturally turn to for financial, medical or other life advice. Typically, people choose beloved family members, trusted friends or other significant people in their lives.

Contact an elder law attorney who can answer your questions about avoiding guardianships and help you prepare an estate plan.

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