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Information for those contemplating a guardianship

Massachusetts residents may be interested in information regarding guardianships in order to get a complete picture of estate planning options. Though the cost may be high, a guardianship may be an important option in the event of a person's incapacity.

A guardianship is a position that a person is appointed to in order to make decisions for another who lacks capacity to do so due to age or disability. The person for whom the decisions are made is called a ward, and the person making the decisions is called a guardian. A guardian can be called upon to make decisions regarding financial or personal matters, including medical decisions. Depending on the state, a person who is only authorized to make financial decisions is sometimes known as a conservator. Setting up a guardianship requires approval from a court and can end up being very expensive, especially if the proposed guardianship is challenged.

A guardian is paid for their work, but the time commitment is often rigorous. A court will have the power to oversee the establishment of the guardianship and will often check in every few years. Certain documentation, such as an accounting of the ward's assets, must be provided. Additionally, the prospective ward is served with papers informing them that a guardian may be appointed. If the guardian is owed money by the prospective ward, many states will not allow a guardianship to be established. A guardian may also be required to post a bond equal to the liquid assets of the ward, as a safeguard against misuse of guarded funds.

Navigating and establishing a guardianship may be a difficult process. An attorney with experience in guardianships may be helpful in ensuring that the setup and execution goes as smoothly as possible.

Source: FOX Business, "What You Should Know about Guardianships", Andrea Murad, August 30, 2013

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