As we grow older, there comes a time when it is wise to consider giving another person the authority to make important legal and financial decisions on our behalf. These individuals may have a variety of duties, depending on the needs of the person they serve, and may go by a number of titles denoting their specific obligations and privileges. For the sake of brevity, we’ll address legal guardianship.
When you begin considering who should serve as your guardian, it is important to understand the kind of person who is likely to serve you well. Should you allow emotional factors or pre-existing relationships to carry too much weight as you consider your options, you may choose a guardian who does not fully meet your needs, or who may use your resources unfairly.
As with any matter that affects estate planning, it is always a good idea to consult with an established estate planning attorney who maintains a reputation of fair dealing. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you identify all of your estate’s needs and address many issues before they cause lasting trouble.
What makes a good guardian?
Acting as a guardian is both a privilege and a great responsibility. As you consider who within your community may best serve your needs, it is important to assess not only a candidate’s qualifications, but also his or her character.
Guardianship exists at the intersection of personal and professional matters, and a guardian who lacks strong personal character may take advantage of the position for personal gain at your expense. Consider these questions in your search for a suitable guardian:
- Do you believe that the candidate values and practices honesty and integrity, both personally and professionally?
- Does the candidate manage personal affairs in a responsible manner in his or her own life?
- Does the candidate engage in substance abuse that may alter his or her judgement?
- Does the candidate have any sort of criminal record?
Many individuals who make a mistake and find themselves on the wrong end of the law may make excellent guardians after learning a valuable lesson. However, they may not meet the legal requirements to serve as a guardian if they have a felony conviction on their record.
Similarly, you want to consider the professional qualifications of any candidate. While many different people may successfully serve as guardian for you and your estate, the more experience a person has in financial and legal matters, the more effective that person may prove in the long run.
Don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance
As you consider your options in guardianship, you may find that an objective professional third party is useful in your search. Seeking legal guidance can help you assess your needs and opportunities and ensure that you understand the full scope of the issues at hand.