Sunday, March 24, 2013

Guardianship: Is it ever really a good idea?

One of the inevitable questions that people have when they have a family member with mental illness is:  Should we get guardianship?  In short, the answer is usually no. 

Here's why. Guardianship is a legal mechanism that families use to ensure that a family member gets care and to safeguard assets.  It's a legal relationship authorizing one person to make decisions for another person. The guardian can be a family member, a friend or someone selected by a judge.

You need to get guardianship is your loved one is unable to make health care and financial decisions AS WELL AS unable to pick someone to make those decisions for him.  This works for a person in coma, but not generally for the person with mental illness. 

The person has to be proven incompetent in court, and that's painful, humiliating and even harmful for a person who is striving to be as independent and competent as possible.

Or, unless there's an abusive situation going on, it's better to go a less invasive route: setting up power of attorney.  Of course, the person with mental illness can revoke this as any time.

If you do have to go for guardianship, know that the guardian will need to fine an annual financial report and a report every other year about whether the persons still needs a guardian.

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