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How does a guardianship work?

You've probably heard the term "guardianship" and, in all likelihood, you have at least a basic understanding of the concept, but as a legal term, its definition is a little more detailed. Many might think of a guardianship as something for only the elderly to think about, but it's important to understand what it is and how it works, regardless of age.

In a nutshell, a guardian is a person who can make important decisions for someone who can no longer do so because of a disability, a medical condition or even drug and alcohol addiction. This person is called the "ward." The guardian would act in the following capacities for the ward:

  • Making decisions about medical care.
  • Buying groceries and personal items for the ward.
  • Taking care of bank accounts and portfolios.
  • Making decisions about education.

In the best case scenario, you will make the decision as to who will be your guardian. If you don't, he or she will be selected by the court. Examples of typical guardians include spouses, trusted friends or parents. The courts may also elect a state employee if that is the best option. If you are naming a guardian in your will, make sure you trust the person to make key decisions about your life and make sure he or she is up to the task.

If you haven't named a guardian in your will or aren't sure about the state of your estate documents, you may want to speak with an elder law attorney who can help you get things sorted.

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