Elder Law and Guardianships
As our society ages, a growing segment of our population will need assistance from friends and family members to manage their affairs. From asset planning, Medicaid advice, long term care insurance, our seniors will need the assistance of competent legal counsel to navigate the complex array of laws and regulations.
Byrnes O’Hern & Heugle looks to develop relationships with families and help them decide upon the best asset arrangements, particularly in those situations where family businesses need to be incorporated into the planning. The concept of “elder law” is really a broad term used to cover all of the legal challenges that our seniors might confront.
Our legal system provides a legal mechanism, known as a guardianship, or its close relative, a conservatorship, to accomplish this. A guardianship allows for the appointment of an individual who has the legal authority to make important decisions for someone who is unable to care for themselves or govern their own affairs as a result of an illness or disability.
The most common guardianships involve elderly citizens who may suffer from dementia or other ailments that impair their memory or decision-making. However, young adults with mental disabilities also need guardianships when they turn eighteen. Whether a senior citizen or young adult, the loss of cognitive skills places them at risk both financially and physically. Recognizing the vulnerability of someone who suffers from cognitive deficits, our legal system has created a process whereby someone can seek the appointment of a guardian to assist a person in carrying out the daily tasks of living. Unfortunately, this process requires the submission of two affidavits from physicians, the filing of a legal action with the court, an affidavit concerning the assets of the alleged incapacitated person and typically an appearance in court. There will also be an attorney appointed by the court to review the papers and confirm the need for a guardian. That attorney prepares a report to the judge on his or her findings. An experiened attorney can help you navigate the guardianship procedures and assist in having a guardian appointed for a loved one or family member.
If you need to speak with an attorney about a guardianship, the experienced probate and elder law attorneys at Byrnes O’Hern & Heugle can help. Our law firm is located in Red Bank, New Jersey. To contact our firm about your legal needs, call 732-219-7711 or contact us by e-mail.
A guardianship is really a last resort. There are other steps that can be taken through careful estate planning that decrease the likelihood and necessity for a guardianship proceeding. Through the use of powers of attorney, living wills and healthcare proxies, families can often avoid the cost and stress associated with a guardianship proceeding. A properly prepared power of attorney can transfer decision-making to a trusted friend or family member without resorting to the courts. Healthcare directives and proxies can similarly transfer medical decision-making to another person.
In addition to handling guardianship proceedings, our firm offers comprehensive estate planning services for anyone seeking to avoid the necessity of a guardianship.