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Guardianship and conservatorship protect against elder abuse

| Jun 14, 2021 | Estate Planning |

When a family member needs help making decisions and managing finances, loved ones may be hesitant to take any legal steps to officially give that authority to someone else. However, legal guardianship and conservatorship actually involve safeguards to make sure the decisions made on behalf of the family member are in his or her best interests.

The Judicial Branch of Arizona explains how guardianships and conservatorships work for the benefit of incapacitated adults.

Identifying the need

Before someone can apply to become a guardian making daily life decisions or a conservator handling financial matters, a physician or psychiatrist will have to perform an evaluation. This Health Professional’s Report confirms the individual’s ability or inability to handle tasks such as taking medication correctly, paying bills and driving a vehicle. The doctor weighs in on functional and mental impairments, the effects of medications and treatments, and the possible duration of the current condition. No one can become a ward without a doctor’s verification of incapacity.

Investigating the circumstances

The court does not just take the doctor’s word for it. A court investigator interviews all the interested parties, including the individual who will become the ward, the person who has applied for the role of guardian/conservator, family members, doctors, social workers and others who may have relevant input or questions about the situation.

The investigator gathers all this information and creates a report for the probate court to review before making the decision. People can also provide testimony and evidence in court if they have other considerations for the judge that may affect the ruling.

Monitoring the activities

The guardian/conservator will have to file regular reports about the ward’s health and well-being and accountings of financial documents. An investigator may visit the home for a well-check occasionally, and a health form signed by a physician must be with the report.

The intent of the process is to prevent abuse and ensure that if someone really is unable to handle his or her own affairs, then the person who does it will make healthy, smart decisions.