The Basics of Adult Legal Guardianship

Around 12 million people in the US require long-term care. 

Without advance planning directive, some of these adults will need a legal guardian to make their decisions for them.

If you have an adult relative who you feel will need a legal guardian, there are many things to learn about the process.

Read on to learn more about the concept of legal guardianship for adults and what you’ll have to do if you want to become a guardian.

When Should I Apply for Legal Guardianship?

If you feel that your loved one is incapable of making responsible decisions for themselves, it might be a good idea to consider guardianship.

A court will consider applications for legal guardianship in respect of adults with disabilities, or those who have reached an advanced age and are no longer mentally competent. This incompetence need not be absolute; many adults with guardians remain in possession of most of their mental abilities.

Is Legal Guardianship Necessary?

This is the central question in all adult guardianship cases. If the adult has a valid Power of attorney, a guardianship may not be needed.

Power of Attorney

The legal concept of power of attorney gives one individual the contractual right to make certain decisions in respect to another individual.

There are financial powers of attorney and healthcare powers of attorney. Each of these should be stipulated by a separate legal document.

The reason why power of attorney is a preferable arrangement in many cases is that the adult selects the person who is to have the power. If someone creates a legally binding document specifying who should assume power of attorney over their affairs, this takes effect if and when they become legally incompetent to do so themselves.

What’s Different About Legal Guardianship of an Adult?

Because adults are considered, by default, responsible enough to take care of themselves, legal guardianship can be much trickier to secure in respect of an adult than a child. However, it is still possible.

To secure a right to adult guardianship, there are certain things you’ll have to prove to a court. The key consideration is proof that the person is incapable of making important decisions for themselves.

In certain cases, such as where the person is in a coma or has very severe dementia, this won’t present a problem. However, most situations will be less clear cut than this.

The vast majority of adult guardianship cases involve individuals with many of their mental faculties. Such people might have no issue making themselves understood, but could struggle to manage their financial or healthcare affairs.

A person like this might not appear to need a guardian and may object strongly to the idea themselves.

However, that’s not to say that guardianship isn’t the best course of action. If a person’s behavior puts them at serious risk, even if only on occasion, guardianship may be the most effective way to keep them safe.

However, a judge must have regard for the constitutional right to self-determination. An adult should be free to make their own choices, even if these choices seem poorly thought out or even dangerous. An exception to this is only possible where a doctor determines that a person is medically incapable of looking after themselves.

Who Should an Adult Guardian Be?

If there is no alternative but to apply for legal guardianship, the most important thing to consider is who should occupy the role. A child or sibling of the vulnerable person is the most common choice.

However, if there is more than one suitable candidate, there may be a dispute as to who should do it.

If there is disagreement over who a legal guardian should be, finalizing the arrangement can be a long and arduous process. However, you should always try to agree on matters of this nature privately rather than going to court.

If your family is struggling to come up with a solution, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer. A professional with expertise in this area will be able to highlight all the rights and responsibilities involved in the role and help you come to a decision on this basis.

If no suitable family member or friend can be found, a county-appointed guardian may be necessary. This is not ideal, as a county-appointed guardian is not going to be able to care for a ward in the same way a family member would.

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem is a guardian that the court appoints to protect a child’s interests in a single case. Courts will only take this course of action where they feel that a vulnerable person needs it, usually in a dispute around their estate or the arrangements about their continuing care.

It is important to note that a guardian ad litem is not the same thing as a county-appointed guardian. The former assumes the role of guardian only for as long as is necessary for the legal matter at hand.

A lawyer usually assumes the role of guardian ad litem. A judge may appoint a guardian ad litem without the ward’s consent if they feel the situation requires it.

Keeping Your Loved One in Safe Hands

Every adult wants to be able to take responsibility for themselves. Unfortunately, whether due to age or disability, there are some people for whom that isn’t a possibility.

If no other arrangement will work, legal guardianship can provide a dignified method of ensuring their safety and happiness.

To learn more about how we can help you with matters relating to the care of an adult, contact us today.

7 Essential Tips for Filing a Personal Injury Claim

Slips and falls, dog bites, car accidents: whatever the situation, personal injuries can feel overwhelming. Once you’re on your way to recovery, you’ll want to file a personal injury claim to help cover the costs associated with the incident.

The way you handle the personal injury claim process can impact the outcome. Even little mistakes could ruin your case or decrease how much money you receive. Do not speak or give a recorded statement to the at fault party’s insurance company before speaking with an attorney.

Follow these tips to increase your chances of success with your personal injury claim after you have spoken with an attorney.

1. Seek Medical Treatment

Getting medical care should be your priority after an accident. Even if the injury seems minor at first, you need a doctor to evaluate your situation. There could be something more serious that you don’t notice.

Some injuries don’t show symptoms right away and others get worse over time. If a doctor doesn’t diagnose and treat the situation soon enough, you might have serious complications.

The medical exam also shows the full extent of the injuries. This helps establish how much money you’re entitled to as part of the settlement.

The insurance company could also dispute your claims if you don’t see a doctor right away. They might question if you were actually injured in the accident. They might also suggest that the injury wouldn’t have been as severe if you would have seen a doctor sooner.

Once you see your doctor, follow the treatment plan exactly. Skipping medication, therapy, and other treatments puts you at risk for making the injuries worse. It could also work as an argument against your case since skipping treatment could make increase the severity of the injuries.

2. Record the Details

Supporting your claim with details and evidence increases your chances of getting the settlement amount you want. If you’re seriously injured, getting medical treatment is your first priority. As soon as possible, start collecting evidence and writing down notes to support your claim. Direct your notes and comments to your attorney in order to maintain attorney client privilege. 

Photographs from the scene help to show the circumstances. This can prove that someone else was negligent, which led to your injuries.

If the incident happens in a public area, you might be able to find security camera footage that shows the accident. The video might show unsafe conditions or someone else being reckless, leading to the injury.

Create a written document of the details of the incident. Include the events leading up the incident and what happened during the accident. Avoid emotional descriptions, instead focus on the facts of the situation.

3. Contact a Lawyer

Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer no matter what you may think is the value of your claim. You can file personal injury claims yourself, but personal injury lawyers will make the process easier and more successful. Attorneys understand the personal injury claim process and strategies to get higher settlements.

Small personal injury claims may be manageable on your own. If your case is more complicated, a lawyer’s expertise can be useful. Examples include claims where you’re seeking larger sums or there’s some question of fault.

Complicated cases often get drawn out and require lots of negotiation. Some end up in court. 

Insurance companies have lots of strategies to fight claims. If the case ends up in court, they’ll have lawyers on their side. Going into a claim with your own lawyer prepares you to fight those strategies no matter what happens with the case.

Even if you don’t face a fight, your attorney can ensure you provide all the necessary information. They also ensure you meet the necessary deadlines.

Your attorney can handle all of the negotiations on your behalf so you don’t have to deal with representatives from the other side. Your lawyer’s strong negotiation strategies increase the change of getting a higher settlement.

Personal injury attorneys typically use a contingency fee approach. This means you don’t have to pay attorney fees upfront. Instead, you pay when you receive your settlement with the fee being a percentage of what you receive.

4. Limit What You Say

You might find yourself want to share what happened to you with anyone who’ll listen. Staying quiet about your personal injury case protects your claims and may help you get the outcome you want. Only discuss your case with your attorney.

It’s often best to avoid posting on social media during your case. Even posts that seem innocent, such as pictures of things you do, could hurt your case. If you show yourself doing something active, the insurance company could say you’re not as severely injured as you’re claiming.

5. Document Everything

Document all interactions and events from the time of the incident until you receive your compensation. This paper trail helps you keep track of the progress. 

Write down the date, time, and details of any conversations you have with the insurance company. Save any paperwork you receive during the case. 

Filing a Successful Personal Injury Claim

A personal injury claim helps you get the compensation you deserve after suffering an injury due to someone else’s negligence. An attorney with experience handling personal injury claims will help you recover what you deserve. Understanding the process and following these tips can help you receive a fair settlement.

If you’re dealing with a personal injury, contact us for a consultation on your case.

Estate Planning Checklist: 7 Items Every Estate Plan Should Have

Did you know that 58 percent of Americans don’t have a will?

Many people don’t have wills because they haven’t gotten around it or don’t believe they have enough assets to list in a will. Although many people haven’t gotten around to execute an estate plan, they can all agree on the value en peace of mind it can bring them.

If you’re ready to begin the estate planning process, you came to the right place. Read on for this simple estate planning checklist.

1. Determine Your Estate Planning Goals 

The first step in estate planning is to determine what your goals are. There are many different goals to consider when thinking about estate planning. 

For example, if you have minor children, you’ll want them to be taken care of in case something happens to you. You can even designate a caretaker if you have pets.

People also decide to do estate planning because they want to ensure their spouse and children have a financial plan in case of their passing. If they have a family business, they’ll want to make sure they control the business’s structure after their passing.

Those suffering from illness also want to put everything in order in case they become medically incapacitated. Whatever your reasons are, ensure you determine them before you start the process. 

2. Make a List of Your Assets and Possesions

Sometimes we underestimate how much stuff we accumulate over the course of our lifetime. When you’re in the process of making an estate plan, you need to make a list of all of your possessions and financial assets. 

If you want to facilitate the process, you can divide your assets between tangible and intangible assets. 

Your tangible assets include:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles with deeds such as cars, boats, and motorcycles
  • Jewelry 
  • Antiques, coins, art, and more

Intangible assets include:

  • Savings and checking accounts
  • Mutual funds, bonds, and stocks
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement plans such as IRAs and 401K
  • Business owner deeds

Keep in mind if you will have to get an appraisal of your tangible assets to determine the value of your home, for example. 

3. How Will You Protect Your Family?

Once you have made a list of your tangible and your intangible assets, you have to decide how you will divide them or use them to protect your family. 

For starters, do you have enough life insurance to protect your spouse or children? You need to make sure you leave them with enough life insurance to help them cover everyday bills. For example, if you need two incomes to support your household, your life insurance should cover the other half. 

Some people also want to leave enough life insurance to cover their children’s tuition. 

Those individuals with children also want to designate a guardian for their children during their estate planning process. To get peace of mind, some people even like to name a backup guardian.

Also, you should leave in writing how you would like the guardian to raise your children. Because people have different beliefs and ideas, you should leave them with your wishes for the upbringing of your children.

4. You Will Need Several Directives

Depending on the goals for your estate planning, you will need to leave several directives. The most common directives include medical care, financial power of attorney, a limited power of attorney, and trust.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney designates an agent to make decisions regarding your medical care. 

Financial Power of Attorney

With a financial power of attorney, you a designated agent to manage your financial affairs — your power of attorney will have the responsibility of paying bills, taxes, and having access to your assets on your behalf.

Limited Power of Attorney

As the name suggests, with a limited power of attorney, you designate an agent to act on your behalf when it comes to certain issues. For example, you might be able to grant them limited power to sell your home. 

The agent won’t have any other responsibilities aside from selling the home.

Trust

You can designate a living trust to divide or designates portions of your estate while you’re alive. For example, you can designate a certain portion of your assets to go towards your medical care should you become sick.

5. Keep Track of Your Beneficiaries

Once you’ve done an inventory of your assets and selected your directives, the next step is to review your beneficiaries. 

Start by going through your insurance and retirement plan policies and making sure you have the correct beneficiaries. For example, with life insurance, you can designate what percent each of your beneficiaries will receive. 

When it comes to your other material possessions such as jewelry, motorcycles, and more, you should name who will receive each of those items. 

It’s also a good idea for you to name backup beneficiaries for each of the items.

6. Get the Opinion of a Professional

Because creating an estate plan is a complex process, you should enlist the help of an expert. Estate planning attorneys will help you walk through the process and even include items you never thought about.

When you have a large estate or children, it’s advised you work with an estate planning attorney. They will be able to answer all of your questions. 

Follow This Estate Planning Checklist

Now that you know about this estate planning checklist, you’re ready to get the process started. Remember to do an inventory of your assets, designate beneficiaries, determine your goals, and get the expert’s opinion.

Do you need the help of an estate planning expert? Contact us today for a consultation.

The Basics of Child Guardianship

Today, there are over 400,000 children living in out-of-home care. 

There are manyreasons for this. While some of these children have no living parents, the majority do have at least one living parent.

If you know a child whose parents are unable or unwilling to take care of them, you could consider applying for guardianship to ensure that their rights are protected.

Read on to learn more about child guardianship and whether it might be a good option for you.

What Is Guardianship?

So, what does it mean to be a guardian? Child guardianship is a legal process that gives guardians the right to make certain decisions in respect of children (a child under guardianship is called a ward).

These decisions will often mirror parental decisions. For example, a guardian may be entitled to decide where a child attends school, where they should live, and what medical treatments they should receive.

Guardians are also generally responsible for a child’s day-to-day requirements. This includes the provision of food and housing, and transport to and from school and other activities.

There is also a form of guardianship in which a guardian takes charge of just a child’s estate. This is common in situations where the child has significant wealth, or where they require ongoing medical care. A guardian’s role here is to ensure that funds are used responsibly, in the way that best serves the interests of the child.

In all cases, guardianship continues until the child turns 18. 

Is Guardianship Necessary?

Applying for legal guardianship is a complex and potentially costly affair. You should therefore try to avoid it unless it’s entirely necessary.

In a case where a child has no parental figure, it will usually be required. Quite simply, a child needs a competent adult to manage their affairs, financial and otherwise.

Who Should Act As a Child’s Guardian?

If a deceased parent has named someone to act as guardian in their will, the responsibility will fall to this person in most cases. If there is a dispute over their suitability, the judge will place a lot of emphasis on the wishes of the parent but will independently evaluate suitability.

In many instances, however, more than one person might be well-suited to the role of guardian. If there is a dispute as to who should do it, the application can be a much more difficult process.

If there is disagreement as to who should occupy the role of guardian, a family lawyer can help you to tease out the important issues. Guardianships impose obligations which your lawyer will understand and be able to explain. Usually, the person best-positioned to meet these obligations will be the best guardian.

If no one from the family is fit to act as guardian, a county-appointed guardian may be required. 

Child Guardianship

Courts recognize that children are not legally capable of making important decisions for themselves. Therefore, a child who does not have a responsible adult in a position to make such decisions is assumed to need one.

So unless there is disagreement from another potential guardian of the child, courts are usually happy to consider a willing adult for the role.

Adults, on the other hand, are assumed to be able to take care of themselves. While this is not true in every case (such as where a person is disabled or suffering from dementia), judges require substantial proof that an adult is incapable of making important decisions before making them a ward.

The Benefits of Child Guardianship

There are a couple of reasons why child guardianship might be right for you.

Guardianship allows children to receive basic care where their biological parents are not in a position to provide it. 

It is a more secure option than custody. While custody of a child allows you to see to the day-to-day welfare requirements of a young person, it confers very few solid rights in terms of their long-term care.

Guardianship can also be used in cases where a child has to live away from home but still has a good relationship with their parents. This might be due to attending school in a different state, for example.

What Does a Child Guardianship Lawyer Do?

Child guardianship cases are not always straightforward.

A child guardianship lawyer will be able to advise you whether or not you need a child guardianship. If you do, they’ll support and inform you through every step of the process.

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

If a judge feels it is necessary in a given situation, they can appoint a guardian ad litem. This is a person who represents the interest of the child in any legal action that concerns them.

The guardian ad litem will usually be a lawyer. It is important to note the difference between a guardian ad litem and a county-appointed guardian; a guardian ad litem is an attorney that participates in the legal proceedings only.

These figures ensure that the interests of the child are the guiding objective in all legal matters.

Give a Child a Chance at a Better Life

Nobody wants to see a child in distress. If a young person does not have a responsible adult who can make important decisions for them, it will have huge implications for their quality of life.

When there is no better option, a child guardianship can be a positive force in the life of a vulnerable young person.

To learn more about how we can help you become a legal guardian, contact us today.