Understanding Guardianship—What is it?

We often hear from concerned family members who are convinced they need to get guardianship over their loved one. Take this situation for example: a daughter calls our office after visiting an assisted living community. She is considering assisted living communities for her mom who has dementia, and one representative at a community told her she had to have guardianship over her mom in order to move her in. She then called us to start that process, convinced that she needed guardianship over her mom. So, what exactly is guardianship? Guardianship is a legal process that allows a judge to grant one adult the legal authority to make decisions for another, incompetent adult (or ward). During the process the proposed ward is deemed to be incompetent (or not) and then placed under a guardianship. The guardian becomes responsible for the ward’s well-being and must determine the ward’s domicile, consent to medical treatment for the ward, and arrange for services to meet the ward’s needs. The decision to seek guardianship should not be taken lightly as there are consequences and negative aspects of guardianship that must be considered. So, why did the assisted living community tell the daughter that she had to seek guardianship over her mother? In this situation, this mom was not willing to move into an assisted living community. She was adamant that she was going to stay in her home and live alone until “they take me outta here feet first in a black bag.” Several times she had left the stove on and had forgotten to pay the utility bills. She often had rotting food in her refrigerator and rarely cleaned up the messes her dogs left in the home. The daughter was overwhelmed with anxiety about her mom and wanted to keep her safe. For this family, the guardianship process might be a good place to start. Once the process is complete, the daughter (or other adult appointed by the judge) will be able to move her mom into an assisted living facility where she can get the care and oversight she likely needs to keep her safe. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing information, tips and words of caution in our blogs and newsletters about guardianship. Because this process can be so confusing and because the stakes are so high, we want to spend time sharing vital information with our readers. If you need personalized legal advice about guardianships in Georgia, please call our office at (404) 843-0121 or email us at info@hurleyeclaw.com

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