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When is guardianship essential (or not essential) for an elderly loved one?

Many senior citizens in the United States rely on a legal guardian. There are two primary types of guardians. There are those who have guardianship of the person, which means the guardian is responsible for overseeing daily activities, health care and financial decisions. There are also estate guardians who predominantly oversee any property and high-value assets the individual owns. 

Many people get into their 70s and 80s and are perfectly capable of watching after themselves without any assistance. Many senior citizens needlessly have a guardian. It is important to look at your family's specific situation to determine if a guardian would be a true asset or a waste of money and resources. 

Is the individual vulnerable to exploitation?

Many scam artists attempt to take advantage of the elderly. Your loved one may not necessarily have dementia, but he or she may become confused easily. However, many senior citizens remain sharp as a tack well into their golden years. Make sure your loved one undergoes cognitive tests before seeking to establish guardianship. 

Is your loved one prone to injuries and accidents?

Some people reach a point where they cannot live alone safely. They become unable to drive and may resist going to see a doctor even when they require one. Unfortunately, in many cases, guardianship -- or some other solution such as power of attorney -- isn't established until something horrible happens, such as a nasty fall in the home. Be cognizant of your elder's needs, especially if he or she lives alone. 

Has power of attorney been assigned? If so, is guardianship still necessary?

Power of attorney and guardianship can exist side-by-side, but the need for guardianship can also be avoided if powers of attorney have already been assigned. With powers of attorney, a trusted person, usually a family member, can make important medical and financial decisions in the event that the senior becomes incapacitated. If your loved one has not assigned powers of attorney, it is a good idea to have the discussion as soon as possible.

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