Guardianship has a drastic impact on individuals eligible for long term care. Because of this, state law requires that those interested in filing for guardianship receive information about alternatives to guardianship. The following information is derived from an informational pamphlet from the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman.
Guardianship is the court preceding that gives one person the legal authority to make certain personal decisions on behalf of another. The court can grant the guardian the power to make choose the residence for the person, to make health care decisions and their behalf or to use the individual’s money for their care. A guardian cannot effect the personal decisions of the individual by deciding what religion they can practice or who they communicate with.
Being a guardian differs from being appointed conservator by the court. A conservator has the rights to manage finances of the individual such as investments. An individual can have the same person serve as conservator and guardian or two different people.
In order for the court to appoint a guardian, the judge must decide that the individual is unable to make informed decisions due to perhaps a stroke, dementia or other disability. The judge must also decide that having a guardian is necessary to care for the individual.
It is important to keep in mind that guardianship is not an estate planning tool. If there is time to plan ahead it is often much better to draft a power of attorney with an elder law attorney. These documents will provide a trusted loved one with the ability to make financial and medical decisions for an individual.