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Guardianship and elder law: Taking care of aging family members

As family members age, they might not be able to take care of themselves like they used to in the past. This can be a difficult realization for everyone involved. If prior arrangements for this eventuality were not made through elder law estate planning, it will be necessary to petition a Delaware court for a guardianship.

A guardianship removes the decision-making responsibility from an incapacitated individual and gives it to the person or persons appointed by the court. If you are appointed guardian, you will be responsible for ensuring that the day-to-day needs of the ward (the incapacitated person) are met and that he or she is comfortable. You will be given access to funds to cover your aging family member's expenses.

Certain reporting requirements must be met so the court can monitor the guardianship. Any needs outside of the ordinary course might need to be brought to the court for approval. You will also be responsible for any decisions that need to be made regarding his or her medical care.

It is important to understand what being a guardian entails before agreeing to serve. If it is an emergency situation, you might be appointed as a temporary guardian, which may or may not become permanent later. Regardless of the situation, it would be beneficial not to attempt to resolve it alone.

Guardianships are a serious part of elder law since the court is essentially stripping a person of his or her rights. Once you realize that your aging family member's safety and well-being are in jeopardy, you should consult with other family members to determine how to proceed. Matters can become even more complicated if family members are unable to agree on the best course of action. Therefore, it would be a good idea to involve a Delaware attorney in the process to ensure that the proceedings go according to plan.

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