You have a child who is growing into an adult. You know that it's not safe for them to live alone or to try to care for themselves because their disability makes them unable to do so safely. As you've been working on your estate plan, this has been weighing heavily on your mind.
A conservator is a person is entrusted with caring for a conservatee. That individual takes on the role voluntarily and is given legal power to perform certain tasks for the conservatee. Usually, the conservatee is the one who chooses who their conservator will be.
When you're creating an estate plan, one thing you need to learn about is guardianship and conservatorships. Guardianship is also known as conservatorship in some states, and it refers to the court appointing someone to take care of the legal rights of a mentally incapacitated person. This person becomes known as the "ward" of the conservator or guardian.
A durable power of attorney, known as a POA, is one of the most, if not the most, important documents in your estate plan. This document assigns a person as the representative who will act on your behalf if you are not able to do so. They may manage your business and financial transactions on your behalf.
When many people hear the term "guardian" being used, they often think about a child who maybe isn't able to reside with their own biological parents. In those cases, a third party is appointed by a family court judge to take care of them. This isn't the only type of guardianship that exists.
An important part of an Ohio estate plan is keeping it updated. This is important not just with the will but with all documents including powers of attorney. Both changes in the family and changes in the law may result in a power of attorney that needs to be revised. For example, in 1993, the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act was approved. It has added a number of authorities to the medical power of attorney including approving admission, approving organ donation and making decisions around life-saving procedures.
People who are incapacitated because of a disability or are minors may need a guardian to manage their financial affairs and make important decisions about their care. A person in need of a guardianship is known as a ward. In Ohio, parents may nominate a guardian for their children for the future in case they die before the child reaches adulthood by putting a signed nomination in writing witnessed by two disinterested parties.
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.
Statistics provided by the Alzheimer's Association suggest that aging adults 65 and older in Ohio and across the country stand a one in nine chance of getting Alzheimer's disease. Taken together with other ailments such as dementia and disabling accidents that could render them unable to take care of their finances, older adults might wish to proactively assign that responsibility to someone else in case they were ever incapacitated.
As the health of a parent declines, an adult child's responsibilities can become more significant. Good estate planning at a time when that parent is capable of legally executing the documents required in Ohio could prevent a great deal of stress and difficulty later on. Neglecting such planning can leave those caring for their aging parents in difficult financial and legal positions.