Family attorneys fight hard for their clients, and they often have to help those clients navigate difficult situations. Perhaps you are divorcing your spouse, and you need help securing your financial future through alimony. Or maybe you are trying to adopt a child who has been the victim of abuse, and you need a lawyer to guide you through the legal process of gaining guardianship. A good family lawyer does not just help their clients navigate the law; they help their clients move forward into better life situations. We appreciate the work these attorneys do, and we have dedicated this blog to spread the word about their profession.
Guardianship is a legal structure designed to place one person's interests in the hands of another party that can make decisions and render judgments on the first party's behalf. It's commonly used when dealing with the needs of children, but it's also becoming more common when adults are incapacitated. Generally, the court would like to see as close a relative as possible set up as the guardian.
Ask any family lawyer, though, and you'll learn that guardianship can end up being an extreme or unnecessary choice. Let's look at some alternatives a family attorney might recommend.
This is an arrangement that may arise when someone receives certain benefits, such as Social Security survivor or disability benefits. The payee is someone who receives payments on behalf of an individual who is not in a position to deal with finances, such as a child who is too young to have their own checking account. A payee is expected to handle the money in a competent manner while accounting for the beneficiary's best interests.
Durable Power of Attorney
Assuming power of attorney is not necessarily a full-on alternative to guardianship. For example, it's not uncommon for someone to be appointed a guardian and given durable powers of attorney for property or health care. This is the sort of arrangement you may see when an older family member is in a position where they may struggle to handle money or deal with health problems, such as might happen with a dementia patient.
Especially if the primary concern is how well money will be handled, a trust may be less of a legal imposition than making someone the ward of a guardian. A trust can be designed to empower a trustee to look out for the interests of a beneficiary.
The trust may also be configured to change as the circumstances do. For example, someone who is 10 years old at the start of the trust may gain greater access to or complete control of it at a later time when they become an adult. A special needs trust can be used to provide for someone who might have long-term concerns.
Taking on a child as your own offers many of the same legal upsides as becoming a guardian. The limited term of adopted life, though, will ensure that an able child will have a normal legal path to adulthood by turning 18 and completing or leaving school.
To learn more, contact a family attorney in your area.