Let me get straight to the point: Guardianship is terrible. You can generally avoid guardianship by having valid, well-crafted Powers of Attorney that are drafted and signed while you are competent and acting on your own free volition.
Guardianship is a court-run process where any person can petition the court to hold that another person is incompetent and unable to manage his or her own affairs. After a hearing, if the person is deemed incompetent, the judge appoints the guardian. Sometimes it’s a family member, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a contested guardianship, where the guardian’s ability to care for the person must be decided, and possibly be revoked. But one thing is for certain—once you’re deemed incompetent, you have no say over who your guardian will be. You have no control over your life.
Imagine someone you’ve never met is now controlling your estate—your money and your house. Imagine them choosing when your family, friends and loved ones can see you, if they’re allowed to visit you at all.
Check out the name “Gloria Byars” on Google, and you will find several articles from this past year. Ms. Byars was the court-appointed guardian for more than 100 individuals, yet had a long criminal record of committing fraud. With little oversight, guardians like Byars preyed (and still prey!) upon the elderly, at best doing shady things with their money, and at worst, defrauding them and stealing from them.
Recently, Pennsylvania has written new rules that take effect this coming summer for the courts to follow with guardianship cases. These new rules are intended to make the requirements for serving as a guardian more stringent. In effect, this may weed out some of the bad apples, but the system is not getting better. You really, really want to avoid guardianship.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to get you and your family valid Powers of Attorney, including a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. They are legal documents that allow you to appoint a person of your choosing to step into your shoes and take care of your affairs if you are unable to do so yourself. With valid Powers of Attorney, you can sleep well at night knowing that if something happens tomorrow, a stranger won’t be overseeing your life.
Our office regularly helps clients craft Powers of Attorney in addition to other estate planning documents. The best time to act is now, while it’s fresh in your mind. Call for your appointment now at (215) 706-0200 or email us at info@JawAtLaw.com