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Are there ways to avoid court-appointed guardianship?

Many senior citizens fear the complications of old age. They're afraid of not being able to perform the physical activities that they once did. They may also be afraid of becoming mentally incapacitated and losing control of their assets by having a court-appointed guardian assigned to them. But, are there ways to avoid this type of event should an individual become mentally incapacitated?

One way to avoid having a court-appointed guardian supervise a person's assets is to make sure that these assets have joint ownership. That means that if certain assets, such as real estate property, are co-owned by another person, the co-owner can take care of the property as well as pay for any upkeep of that property. However, the other individual will not be able to sell the property unless both owners agree to it.

Another way to avoid court-appointed guardianship is to sign a power of attorney with the financial institutions where an individual has their accounts. All financial institutions, including credit unions, mutual fund companies and banks, have their own kind of POA. The owner of the account can sign a POA for each of these accounts while they are mentally competent. However, the disadvantage of this procedure is that it can become a long drawn out process and take quite a bit of time to complete.

Signing a general POA is still another estate planning tool that can help prevent a court-appointed guardianship. An individual, usually a trusted family member or friend, can be chosen by the testator to act on their behalf in the event that they become incapacitated. Setting up a revocable living trust is another way to avoid court-appointed guardianship.

Source: about.com, "How to avoid guardianship or conservatorship", Accessed July 23, 2016

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