Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Power of Attorney or Guardianship?

If you have reason to believe that your loved one may be approaching a time when s/he will not be able to handle his/her own daily life or financial affairs, you may be frightened and confused about your options.

People often (mistakenly) think that there is nothing that can be done unless "things get really bad."  Actually, there is a lot that you can do to plan in advance. 

A guardianship may indeed be the best option for the situation. However, these are not granted automatically and they cost time and money to properly prepare and file.   A court is then involved, and the person who is now the appointed guardian must meet certain requirements under the law.  This is often a very good thing, because it protects the Ward (the person who has the Guardian) and  his/her assets, and gives proper authority to the Guardian.

As an alternative to a guardianship (or a temporary measure before a guardianship), powers of attorney may be what is needed.  A person who is able to understand what s/he is signing may decide to name someone they trust to manage business and personal affairs, and medical and health needs.

A person who is able to understand what s/he is signing may also choose to sign a document that names someone "to be my Guardian if a Guardian is ever needed for me." 

Joint ownership of bank accounts and other assets can also prove to be a good planning tool in some situations. 

Choosing which path is the correct one must be done carefully and with knowledge because these various options can affect income tax liability, ability to receive government benefits, ability to claim a homestead exemption, ability of a judgment creditor to reach assets and other factors.   

A Texas attorney who is familiar with estate planning can assist you in analyzing your situation and deciding on the best course of action.  A consult to make these important decisions is time and money well spent.  If possible, it is a good idea to go to the attorney when everyone is still able to participate in the decision because once a person's condition has advanced to the point where s/he is not able to understand, the choices will be more limited. 
The Woodlands Texas
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