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Can we resolve guardianship disputes without court?

Making decisions on behalf of someone else can be far more difficult than people expect. Not only must a person make complicated financial and medical decisions, he or she must do so based on what he or she believes are an incapacitated ward's best interests.

Under these circumstances, it is not unusual for people to make mistakes or do something that others take issue with. Should this happen, guardianship disputes can arise. Fortunately, there are ways to resolve concerns and arguments without the cost and stress of going to court.

Clearing up confusion

Guardianship disputes can stem from unpopular decisions, unusual financial transactions or poor communication with a ward's family. Concerned parties can worry about serious matters like a ward's health or financial resources. These concerns can trigger emotions like fear, doubt, anger and distrust.

Often, having an open and honest discussion with the parties involved can allay these emotions. Parties can benefit from having attorneys and/or mediators participate in the discussions to provide clarity and helpful information.

Talking about the issue at hand allows parties to share concerns and defend difficult decisions before they erupt into a contested guardianship.

Setting expectations from the beginning

Even when these matters can be resolved early, it is typically best to avoid them in the first place. Therefore, it can be in everyone's best interests to set expectations about the guardianship role and responsibilities from the beginning.

Prospective guardians should educate themselves on what the job entails before petitioning for or accepting the role. They should know what they must do or not do in their position of authority.

It can also be very helpful for family members to speak with the party who may require guardianship before his or her ability to make decisions is compromised. Discuss financial habits and goals, medical wishes, end-of-life care arrangements and other critical matters. These discussions can clear up confusion and alleviate the burden on a guardian to make difficult choices.

In other words, communication will be key in preventing and resolving guardianship disputes without going to court.

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