Few things are more distressing than realizing that a parent who once cared for us is having difficulty caring for him or herself. It is difficult for both the parent, accustomed to independence and to giving, not receiving, help, and for the adult child confronted with a parent's sudden frailty. If you live far away from your parent, your worry about their well-being may be compounded.
Whether an older loved one is having trouble making appropriate decisions about their healthcare or living situation, or is making poor financial decisions, it may be necessary for someone to get legal permission to step in and help. In Michigan, someone who assists with personal and medical decisions is known as a guardian, and someone who helps with finances is called a conservator. It is not uncommon for a person to need both a guardian and a conservator. The same person can serve in both capacities, or two different people may divide these duties.
Here's what you need to know about Michigan guardianship and conservatorship, and about how to get the help that you and your loved one need.
In Michigan, a guardianship is a legal relationship created by the probate court when a person lacks legal capacity to make their own life decisions, such as where to live or whether to receive medical treatment. The person who needs help is known as a ward, or protected person. The person appointed to protect the ward's interests, often a family member, is known as the guardian. Depending on the needs of the ward, a guardianship may be partial, giving the guardian authority to make decisions about only certain matters, or full.
A person may need a guardian due to the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's, but a guardian may also be appointed for an adult with mental illness or deficiency, physical illness or inability, or chronic substance abuse. The person seeking the guardianship may petition the probate court to have a guardian appointed, but the person who needs assistance, or another interested person, can also initiate the process.
The process of seeking guardianship is a legal matter, but it can evoke strong emotions in the ward, guardian, and family members: grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety. At Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC, we make it a priority to give you the legal information and guidance you need to obtain guardianship, but also the support and compassion you and your loved one deserve as you navigate this transition.
If your elderly loved one is forgetting to pay bills, perhaps resulting in utility shut-offs or collection notices, they may need a conservator. Other signs that a conservator may be needed: regular bank account overdrafts that the loved one can't explain; making large or unusual financial gifts, especially to people they don't know well; or falling prey to scams or identity theft because they freely share personal or financial information. If you have evidence that your vulnerable loved one is being taken advantage of financially, you should consider seeking conservatorship.
As with guardianship, conservatorship is designed to protect adults who lack legal capacity to manage their affairs due to age or mental or physical disability. If you are concerned that your loved one's financial health is at risk because of their inability to make informed financial decisions, the staff of Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC can help. We will guide you through the process of petitioning for conservatorship in Michigan and protecting the financial well-being of your loved one.
Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with ample free parking near the office. The firm is only minutes away from the Washtenaw County Courthouse. Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC regularly works with clients in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Livingston, Genesee and Lenawee Counties and throughout Michigan, as well as those outside Michigan who require the help of a local attorney.