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Planning now could prevent abuse by guardian in later years

Ohio residents often avoid thinking about what could happen if they become physically or mentally vulnerable in old age. If a person has not set up a durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney during healthy times, then an abusive agent might step in and become a guardian or conservator who uses an elder's finances for personal gain.

An elder might not get to choose a guardian if sickness or mental incapacity strikes. Relatives fighting for control of the person or a nursing home that needs payment might convince a judge to appoint a guardian. The situation in which a supposed friend of an elder gains the person's trust and becomes the guardian also creates the potential for exploitation.

To avoid losing control, a person could choose a guardian before problems arise. Someone trustworthy with a proven record of financial responsibility could be selected and named by the person within a durable power of attorney document. The document can even specify that the guardian present financial records on a regular basis to another trusted individual. Similarly, a medical power of attorney could establish who can see an elder's medical records and make decisions about health care.

By making these wishes formally known in advance, a person could spare relatives the need to engage in costly guardianship proceedings. An estate planning attorney who has experience with these types of matters can often be of assistance in preparing these and other documents that might be appropriate as well. This can also give the client the peace of mind in knowing that assets will be preserved and protected in the event of incapacity.

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