A guardianship is a useful estate planning tool that can be helpful in some situations and is worth understanding for many estate planners. A guardianship can help with loved ones who are disabled or can help as part of the process of planning for incapacity.

A guardianship can be set up to allow a trusted individual to make decisions for the ward who is the subject of the guardianship. A guardian is typically required to be over the age of 18 and can be expressly named by the ward or may be appointed by the court in some situations. The court will look to documents such as a will or durable power of attorney for information on who to name as the guardian. The court may give preference to a family member as a guardian.

A guardianship can be used to allow the guardian to make financial and non-financial decisions for the ward. Powers of the guardian can include assuring the availability of care for the ward; making sure that educational and medical services for the ward are adequate and are maintained; making financial decisions for the ward; making medical decisions for the ward; and providing updates to the court concerning the ward’s condition.

A variety of estate planning tools can help care for disabled loved ones and plan for incapacity. Trusts and guardianships can help address concerns family members may have about disabled loved ones and a durable power of attorney and advance healthcare directive can help plan for incapacity, as examples. A guardianship is another important legal tool to be aware of when estate planners are setting up an estate plan that is best for them.