Parents Can Become Dependents, Too
We are all acquainted with the process of when an orphaned minor needs a guardian until he or she becomes an adult. But what happens at the other end of the age spectrum, when the parents become physically or mentally disabled and need supervision?
The Issue Of A Guardian
The issue is whether a senior citizen (or even younger adult) needs a "guardian" to handle his or her personal needs or a "conservator" to manage the person's finances. At different times our office has been retained to represent the children who want mom or dad to have a guardian or conservator, and at other times, we have been hired by a parent to assert his or her competency to handle their affairs.
It is an obviously emotional situation because the parent usually does not want to give up his or her autonomy. Also, the Alzheimer's disease or dementia can leave its victim with a false sense of what he or she can manage. On the other hand, some children want to rush to a guardianship when mom or dad slows down a slightly, or becomes a bit forgetful. On the darker side, some children want to get and use mom's or dad's money for themselves while the parent is still alive.
A Blended Family Can Makes Things Complex
The situation can become further complicated when there is a "blended family" of a second marriage or when mom or dad becomes enamored of a new "significant other", whom the natural children do not approve. The children may become suspicious that mom is being "financially exploited" by a man they consider a "gold digger". On the other hand, the children may refuse to accept the fact that dad has become emotionally or sexually attracted by someone other than deceased mom.
There is no doubt that in such circumstances, legal battles can become emotional - and expensive.
A Reasonable Alternative
The reasonable alternative is that family members communicate with each other. Unfortunately, when it comes to parent-child or sibling communication, some families are terminally dysfunctional. Sometimes communication can be opened up by a neutral clergyman or impartial family friend. Even that doesn't always work with the distrust that seems to be inherent in "blended" families.
Under the Minnesota Probate code, the courts give preference to alternatives that are less onerous than a guardianship or conservatorship. These can include powers of attorney or Health Care Directives (formerly known as "Living Wills").
In preparing for disability and estate planning matters, it is always wise to confer with a qualified professional while the parents (and children) are competent and emotionally calm.
Bill Peterson is a Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney with over 40 years of experience as a lawyer. He can help you plan for the future by creating a Minnesota Estate Plan. For more information, please visit http://www.mnestateplan.com or call toll free at 952-641-7312.
The contents of this video are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning. The U.S. Treasury Department requires us to advise you that any written tax advice cannot be used and is not intended to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Written advice from our firm relating to any Federal Tax matters may not, without our express written consent, be used in promoting, marketing or recommending any entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer.