Elderly individuals are a vulnerable population, and unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has only made this more true. Besides being one of the hardest-hit age groups, the negative impacts of isolation can also have a detrimental impact on the well-being of older adults. Unfortunately, isolation also means that degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s can develop without being noticed early. While some people think that pursuing guardianship might be a good strategy if a loved one ends up in such a situation, in reality, guardianship may or may not be the best option.
The Guardianship Process in Oklahoma
Guardianship in Oklahoma can only be appointed by a court. Located at Title 30 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the state’s guardianship laws require a person seeking guardianship to file the appropriate paperwork, pay court fees, and attend a court hearing. Guardianship is only granted over an adult when the adult is determined to be either fully or partially incapacitated. An incapacitated individual is someone who is over the age of 18 and not able to make competent decisions regarding their life. Oklahoma law acknowledges three types of guardianship. General guardians look over a person and all of his or her property, limited guardians exercise limited powers over the person, and special guardians are appointed for emergency purposes. Guardianship proceedings are serious and complex matters.
Reasons to Think Twice About Guardianship
Sometimes, seeking guardianship is one of the best steps that a family can take for a loved one. Other times, it is good to consider whether guardianship is appropriate. Some of the reasons why it might be a good idea to pursue alternatives to guardianship include:
- Appointing a guardian is a serious process. Guardianship will deprive the loved one of the ability to make all financial and personal decisions for themselves.
- The law requires a guardian to be appointed only when there is no less restrictive form of intervention. A less restrictive form of care might be more appropriate.
- Pursuing guardianship is expensive and time-consuming. Besides an attorney, expert witnesses like physicians or psychologists must also be paid to provide testimony. Not all families have the assets or time to pursue guardianship.
- In some situations, guardians have less authority to make medical decisions for the loved one than close relatives who are not guardians. This is because guardians might have to obtain approval from the court, while others could make the same decision without the court’s involvement.
Besides guardianship, some of the other options that might be utilized include durable powers of attorney, joint checking accounts, living wills, representative payees, and trusts. A skilled lawyer can help you determine what option would be most advantageous for you and your loved one.
Speak With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning is a nuanced process and no single solution works for everyone. To determine what strategy works best for you, it can help to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Contact Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.