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What is a guardianship and how does it help?

There will likely come a time in all of our lives where we need someone else to help us with the daily tasks. We will need someone to make decisions on our behalf because of the natural degeneration we experience as get older. And, in general, we will need someone else around to give us a sense of safety and comfort.

This is where a guardianship can be extremely helpful. Including provisions and documents in your estate plan that provide for a guardian to help you in your later years is critical for many people. A guardian can be appointed in a number of ways, but the most common way is for the "ward" (the person who's estate we are discussing) to outline in his or her estate that a family member, loved one or other trusted individual is their guardian.

Another way for a guardian to be appointed is through the courts. A judge can make a determination on a ward's guardian, and will likely choose a family member or loved one as opposed to a third party or unknown individual (even if he or she is an outstanding citizen). Spouses or relatives are usually chosen by a court to be the ward's guardian.

Any guardian has a duty to protect and stand up for their ward. They have to make decisions on behalf of the ward, not on their own behalf. They have a duty to manage the ward's finances and give consent for medical care and treatment. They also have to help with daily activities and duties, such as purchasing necessities. If a guardian fails in his or her duties or doesn't live up to the standards of a guardian-ward relationship, he or she can be removed by the court. They could also face criminal charges depending on their negligence and dereliction of duty.

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