At some point in your life you may realize that your parent (or other older adult loved one) is no longer capable of safely functioning alone. Like most people in your position you may be hesitant to step in, feeling as though to do so would be to take your parent’s independence away. Keep in mind, however, that failing to step in could lead to your parent suffering physical injury and/or becoming the victim of unscrupulous scam artists who prey on the elderly and disabled in our society. With that in mind, it may be time for you to consider pursuing an adult guardianship in New Hampshire.
How Does a Guardianship Work?
Guardianship is a legal relationship between you and the “ward.” The “ward” is the person who is in need of assistance because he/she is unable to perform daily tasks of living and/or unable to manage his/her finances without help. In the State of New Hampshire, there are two types of adult guardianship – guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. A guardian of the person has the legal authority to make personal decisions for the ward, such as where the ward will live, what doctor the ward will treat with, and whether or not the ward may drive a car. A guardian of the estate has the legal authority to manage the estate of the ward, including making decisions regarding the payment of bills and/or the sale of assets.
How Do I Know My Parent Needs a Guardian?
Be Guardianship is generally considered the most restrictive alternative when an adult needs assistance. As such, it can be very difficult to know when it is time to pursue guardianship. The law says a guardianship is warranted when you can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt that the proposed ward is unable to provide for basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, health care, safety, and/or is unable to manage financial affairs.” While this definition provides insight, it is still best to sit down with your New Hampshire estate planning attorney and discuss the matter. Your estate planning attorney has likely petitioned for numerous guardianships before, making his/her advice invaluable. Some common signs, however, that a guardian is needed include:
• Failing to take medication as prescribed/when prescribed
• Increase in accidents without explanation
• Bills not being paid when funds are available to pay them
• Forgetting family member’s names or important dates
• Assets disappearing without explanation
How Do I Become a Guardian?
In order to become your parent’s legal guardian you must first petition the appropriate court. I short, you will need to explain why the proposed ward (your parent) is in need of a guardian and why you should be that guardian. You must also notify all interested parties and allow them the opportunity to object in writing and at a hearing if one is scheduled by the court. The court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, at some point after filing the petition. The GAL’s job is to determine what is in the best interest of the proposed ward. The GAL’s report, as well as a relevant doctor’s reports, are submitted to the court for review. At the hearing, the petitioner (you) must present enough evidence and testimony to convince the court that your parent needs assistance with everyday tasks and/or with managing finances. You must also convince the judge that alternatives to guardianship will not be sufficient.
Being a Guardian
If the judge is convinced that a guardian is needed, and that you are an appropriate person for the job, you will be appointed as your parent’s guardian. The court may appoint you to be the guardian of the person, guardian of the estate, or both. Furthermore, the court may limit your authority as a guardian in any way the court sees fit as long as it is in the ward’s best interest.
Contact Us Today
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding adult guardianship in the State of New Hampshire you should consult with an experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorney today. Contact the experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.