It’s hard watching loved ones age. Their loss of independence can come as quite a blow for their families, and such challenges can become even more difficult if the guardian trusted with the care of a loved one is not fulfilling the responsibilities of the position.
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to make decisions about a protected person’s well-being (the “ward”).
A few of the responsibilities of a guardian, include ensuring safe and clean living arrangements, seeing to appropriate medical care (including compliance with taking of necessary medications)and determining whether or when family members or other people should be able to visit the ward.
If you suspect or see that something isn’t right with the guardianship, you should find an experienced probate litigation attorney to help you file a petition with the court or to contact Adult Protective Services (APS). Both of these bodies take the fulfillment of a guardian’s responsibilities very seriously.
Sometimes, a guardian might be doing an adequate job, but the court will remove a guardian and appoint a successor if it deems that another person is better able to act in the best interest of the ward.
Let’s look at an example where the need for a new guardian is not due to negligence but to circumstance. Sarah, a 75-year-old widow suffering from advanced dementia, is living in a nursing home. She needs a guardian to help with daily living and healthcare. Her son, who was originally appointed as her guardian, lives an hour away from his mother and has his own a busy work and family life. He’s finding it more and more difficult to remain as his mother’s guardian while also seeing to the care of his own family.
Sarah’s sister Beth, who is of sound mind and health, is a registered nurse who happens to live just 15 minutes away from Sarah’s nursing home. Beth visits Sarah daily and is able to be there quickly in an emergency. She has more time to devote to the care of her sister than does Sarah’s son.
It would be in the best interest of the court that Sarah’s son be removed as her guardian, though he has not abused his position, and to appoint Beth as the new guardian. Sometimes another party is better able to care for the ward.
If a guardian is doing a poor job (whether intentionally or unintentionally), in most cases the court will simply to remove a guardian and appoint a successor. If the case is a more amicable transfer of responsibilities as in the example of Sarah and her son, the court will help with the legalities to relieve the original guardian of the responsibilities and transfer the legal authority to the new guardian.
If you’re serving as a guardian, focus on maintaining open lines of communication with your ward’s family and lawyer. Keep detailed records of both letters and reports of care and receipts for expenses paid for with the ward’s resources.
If you have questions about the process of removing a guardian, please contact our office. We’d love to help relieve you and your family of the burden of navigating the legal system as you seek care for your loved one.