Unfortunately, there may come a day when a parent or other loved one suffers an illness or injury that leaves them unable to care for themselves without assistance. While it may not happen to everyone, if that time does come for you, you should consider a Missouri guardianship. Here are six important facts about Missouri guardianship that can make the decision easier.
No. 1 – A guardianship is established through the court
Creating a Missouri guardianship requires a formal court procedure. The court will appoint someone to serve as the guardian of the person who needs assistance, referred to as the ward. The guardian will be given the authority, by the court, to take control of the ward’s finances and personal affairs. Depending on the specific needs of the ward, the appointed guardian may be charged with handling both finances and personal affairs, including health care decisions. Although the court always has broad discretion in deciding who to appoint as guardian, the most common choices are spouses, adult children, and siblings.
No. 2 – The court must first make a determination of incapacity
The first step required in establishing a Missouri guardianship is determining whether your loved one is actually incapacitated. This is a decision the court will make. The term “incapacity” is generally defined as the inability to make appropriate decisions on your own. Incapacity can be either temporary or permanent and can be the result of cognitive impairment, disability, chronic drug or alcohol use or many other medical or health conditions. Age and senility are also two common reasons for incapacity.
No. 3 — The duties of a Missouri guardian
The principal duty of a guardian in Missouri is to oversee the welfare and safety of the ward. This duty involves protecting not only the ward’s money and property but also the ward as a person. It is critical to remember that, with a Missouri guardianship, the guardian’s actions must always be in the best interest of the ward. To make sure that happens, guardians are required to file a petition with the court in order to obtain permission to make certain important decisions. Guardians are also required to make annual reports to the court supervising the Missouri guardianship regarding the status of both the ward and the ward’s affairs.
No. 4 – There are advantages to establishing a Missouri guardianship
There are several great advantages to having a guardianship established for your loved one. One primary advantage is actually court supervision. Because the court oversees the entire process, your loved one is assured to have invaluable oversight and protection from any breach of fiduciary duty or mismanagement of funds. Another important advantage is that a guardian appointed by the court enjoys the kind of authority necessary when dealing with hesitant third-parties.
No. 5 – There are also a few disadvantages that accompany a Missouri guardianship
Although the court’s supervision is certainly an advantage, it literally comes at a price. The court’s continuous involvement in the guardianship proceedings makes it more expensive than some other alternatives. Another aspect of guardianships that some may find troubling is the fact that the proceedings are open to the public. As for the ward, the loss of autonomy that results from a guardianship can be very disconcerting. However, there are a few good alternatives to guardianships that you and your loved one can consider.
No. 6 – Some alternatives to Missouri guardianship
A durable power of attorney is one common alternative to guardianship that is less expensive and less restrictive. A durable power of attorney can be established by an estate planning attorney to meet the specific needs of your loved one. Other options include revocable living trusts, joint bank accounts, and advance directives. Using these various other estate planning tools will allow you to protect your loved one without the need for declaring them incompetent or incapacitated.
When to consider a Missouri guardianship
In most situations, the first sign of incapacity or mental impairment is a significant loss of memory. It is always best to address any issues early on before your loved one becomes a danger to themselves or others. While the preferred plan would be to take care of your loved one without the need for a guardianship, not all families are capable of doing that. Discuss your specific circumstances with an estate planning attorney to decide the best course of action for you and your family.
Join us for a FREE workshop today! If you have questions regarding a Missouri guardianship, or any other estate planning matters, contact Gaughan & Connealy for a consultation either online or by calling us at (816) 974-3030.