A guardianship is a position of total authority and responsibility for a disabled adult who is for some reason incapable of making decisions to support himself or manage his affairs. Such persons are referred to as wards. Often, a person may be temporarily disabled or in need of less restrictive assistance. There are several alternatives to guardianship that may be more appropriate or preferable for such individuals.
A Health Care Proxy*
A health care proxy’s support is limited to only those decisions involving health matters, such as hospital stays, operations, and long-term care. A health care proxy is usually called upon for short-term disabilities such as periods of coma or unconsciousness. The proxy may also be called in for long-term disabilities such as dementia or terminal illness. The proxy is usually a family member, but it can be any agent agreed upon by the individual.
A Personal Caregiver
A personal caregiver is usually an employed professional trained to provide for people with serious illnesses or disabilities that prevents them from caring for themselves. Personal caregivers are usually assigned to those who do not require hospitalization, but cannot live independently. A personal caregiver may visit temporarily to provide meals or services, or they may stay at the home to provide round-the-clock care. A caregiver is often assigned by a hospital or other medical agency. They generally do not have legal permission to make decisions for the individual, but they may have access to personal information and limited access to financial resources needed for that person’s care, such as buying groceries or medical supplies.
A Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal ability to make financial or healthcare decisions for a particular person. The person provided with power of attorney is known as the attorney-in-fact. Power of attorney can vary from complete control of a person’s financial resources to limited control of only a single aspect. For example, an attorney-in-fact may be assigned to deal only with a person’s health care needs, much like a health care proxy, or they may be assigned only to deal with a person’s investments or estate. Power of attorney is often given to a family member, but it can be given to any individual at the disabled person’s discretion.
A Representative Payee
A representative payee is an individual assigned by the Social Security Administration to handle a disabled person’s Social Security and SSI payments. The SSA dictates a representative payee, with input from the disabled person if possible. The SSA will choose family members or close friends first. If none are available, they will use a qualified organization to act as a representative payee.
A trust is a wealth management tool that allows an asset to be held by a third party on behalf of a beneficiary. Anyone can hold an asset in trust for anyone else, regardless of age or disabled status. Trusts are often used to handle inheritance and to limit the impact of inheritance or estate taxes.
Know the Facts Before Making Your Decision
Elder law attorney Andrew Lamkin focuses on providing advice on how to best fulfill the care and decision-making needs of your dependent loved one. Contact his law office today at 516-605-0625 to receive a free consultation and ensure that you make the most suitable choice for those who depend on you.