Guardianships are a valuable legal tool to be familiar with when a loved one is unable to care for themselves. A guardianship is a legal relationship created by the court when a trusted individual is appointed to act as a guardian for a loved one who is no longer able to take care of their own needs.

When a loved one is unable to care for themselves any longer, it can be a difficult decision for family members who may wonder what to do. Signs that a loved one can no longer care for themselves include if they forget to take medication, can no longer maintain adequate hygiene or cannot manage their own finances. The process of appointing a guardian varies by state so it is helpful for family members to be familiar with the guardianship process where they live.

In most circumstances, there are several parties that can petition the court for guardianship if they believe a guardianship is needed. The elderly person themselves may request it or the spouse or domestic partner of the elderly person; a relative of the elderly person; a friend of the elderly person; or a state or local government agency that believes the elderly individual can no longer care for themselves. The individual who is appointed guardian has an important duty of care towards the elderly person.

Guardianships can quickly grow complex and the process of petitioning for a guardianship can also be complex. As a result, families should carefully understand and consider their decision and be familiar with the benefits and potential downsides of a guardianship and how the legal process can help.