No one wants to consider the possibility that an elderly parent or other family member may need to have a legal guardian because they're no longer able to handle their finances or take care of themselves. However, as people live longer, elderly guardianships and conservatorships are becoming increasingly common.
If you have a family member who can no longer manage their financial responsibilities, such as remembering to pay their bills or handle the basic daily activities involved in taking care of themselves, it may be necessary to ask the court to appoint a guardian for them.
Generally family members, friends and even the elderly person themselves can file a petition seeking the appointment of a guardian. A state or local agency may also step in if necessary and petition for someone to have a guardian.
It's not a fast and easy process. After all, it can involve talking away considerable freedom and responsibility from an adult. In Missouri, adults are given the presumption of having the capacity to make decisions for themselves. The fact that others in their family don't agree with their choices doesn't mean they should be required to have a legal guardian.
Before a Missouri guardianship hearing is held, the court will ensure that the elderly person has an attorney representing them. The family member or other person petitioning for the guardianship will be required to show why one is warranted.
Those petitioning for guardianship also need to demonstrate that they've considered alternatives and explain why none are possible or appropriate. If someone is no longer able to responsibly handle their money, there are legal options such as living trusts and powers of attorney.
If a guardian is appointed, that person may become responsible for the elderly person's health and well-being as well as for handling their financial obligations and managing their money. Because guardians may be given considerable control over people's assets and property, this is a role that can be abused in the wrong hands.
Petitioning the court to become someone's guardian or appoint a guardian is a complicated and often emotionally wrenching process, even if the elderly person involved agrees that it's necessary. Before you begin, it's essential to talk with a Missouri elder law attorney who can explain the process and assist you in every step along the way.