David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

When is it time to file for guardianship for parents?

One of the most difficult things adult children must discuss with their aging Florida parents is the need for a solid estate plan. Beyond distributing assets after parents pass away, a well-crafted estate plan includes documents that can protect one's parent during life, including a power of attorney and health care proxy. When a parent refuses to sign such documents, it may leave an adult child with few choices except seeking guardianship if his or her parent becomes unable to handle necessary financial and medical issues.

Filing for guardianship of a parent is something a child does not look forward to, but the alternative is to run the risk of needing a court order if critical decisions must be made in an emergency. It is not always easy to know when it is time to seek guardianship, but some elder law advisors say there are signs that may indicate it is appropriate to take this step. For example, if an aging parent needs professional care and attention more frequently than the child can provide but refuses to discuss moving to a nursing facility, a child will need legal guardianship to make that decision.

There may be times when a child should petition for guardianship even if the parent has a health care proxy or power of attorney in place. For example, some medical decisions may need a guardian's advocacy. In fact, if a parent is capable of making some decisions and not others, seeking a limited guardianship may be a more reasonable and comfortable course of action.

The best option for aging parents is to have a solid estate plan that provides adequate protection in many situations. This may allow them to avoid the pain and frustration of a guardianship petition. Nevertheless, families seeking answers to their questions about guardianships and other estate planning matters can contact a Florida attorney for guidance.

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