Introduction: Courts encourage the use of Alternatives to Guardianship whenever possible. While not appropriate in all situations, Alternatives can work quite well and are much less intrusive into the family’s life. In order to be effective, the papers need to be in place before the need arises. The Alternative must also be capable of replacing both the Guardianship of the Person and/or Guardianship of the Estate to be an effective substitute.

1. What is available to minimize the need for a Guardianship of the Estate?
The most common substitute for a Guardianship of the Estate is a Durable Power Of Attorney. While a Power of Attorney is a common document used for many purposes, they cannot be used when a person looses their capacity. The Durable Power of Attorney is used to correct that problem by including special language that allows the powers of the document to continue in effect after the loss of capacity of the person making it. This is the least expensive alternative and is very commonly used; however, there are several other alternatives that can also be used to achieve the same results.

2. What is available to minimize the need for a Guardianship of the Person?
The most commonly used tool to minimize the need for a Guardianship of the Person is a Medical Power of Attorney. This document allows a person to designate someone to make medical decisions if they are unable to do so. I recommend that everyone have this document because you never know when it could be needed and it must be done before the need arises.

Another document I believe everyone should have is a Directive to Physicians (often called a Living Will). This document is used to tell your doctors your wishes for treatment if you are in a terminal condition or irreversible condition. It allows you to tell the doctor what treatment you want or do not want them to perform. It also allows you to appoint someone to make these decisions for you if you are unable. If you elect to designate a person, it is important that it be the same person on your Medical Power of Attorney.   The difference in the two is that the designation in a Directive to Physicians is only used if you are in a terminal condition or irreversible condition where a Medical Power of Attorney can be used in all medical situations.

3. Are there other alternatives?
There are many other alternatives to both a Guardianship of the Estate and Guardianship of the Person. They each have different advantages and disadvantages. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation. Please use the contact button on this page or call my office to set up a free initial consultation. I am currently using a Medical Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney to care for my mother with dementia even though she could easily qualify for Guardianship. This has given our family a lot of flexibility and gives my mother more dignity as she is a part of all decision making.