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Guardianship: A useful tool when used properly

Guardianships are a touchy subject for some people; however, everyone should understand some basics about guardianships just in case you ever have to use one to help keep a member of your family safe. Knowing some of the basics might make it easier for you to go through the process if it becomes necessary.

One of the most important things about a guardianship when it pertains to someone who doesn't have the mental capacity to make his or her own decisions is to remember that petitioning the court for a guardianship on that basis means that you acknowledge the person can't make decisions. This means that the person is unable to add you to financial accounts or to sign legal documents that give you any sort of rights or responsibilities.

While it may seem like it is trivial when the person is your aging parent, it is important to realize that people are on the lookout for signs of all types of elder abuse. This includes financial elder abuse, so even with your honest intentions, it is vital that you take necessary steps to preserve appropriate legal boundaries. This means that if your loved one is unable to make decisions because of a diminished mental capacity, you shouldn't take steps that could potentially be portrayed as wrong.

One instance that stands out because of the commonality of it is an adult child signing a check for a parent. Most people don't think anything of it, but if that check benefits you personally and you sign your parent's name to it, that action can be considered fraud. It also isn't appropriate to ask a parent who is mentally incapable of making decisions to add you to financial accounts.

Guardianships can be a great tool to make sure that your loved ones are properly cared for when they are unable to do so on their own. It is important, however, to ensure that your actions are in line with Michigan laws to avoid the possibility of your honest intentions being taken as financial elder abuse.

Source: Huffington Post, "Treading the Line Between Good Intentions and Abuse" Chana Frid, Jun. 15, 2014

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