Guardianship Litigation: Don’t Take Anything for Granted

A recent story about a woman who can no longer look after her husband highlights how nothing can be taken for granted in guardianship litigation.  The couple in the story have been married for close to 30 years, and while they’ve sometimes unconventionally lived in different residences, they were reportedly on good terms, with the wife taking care of her husband at the onset of his dementia.

After an argument one morning, he refused to see her any longer or accept her help.  Now he’s been assigned a professional guardian, and his wife is cut off from him; not only can’t she see him, she also doesn’t know what’s become of his finances, including his lifelong savings.  In her battle to obtain guardianship, she’s fought against a former son-in-law who also petitioned to be legal guardian.  The result is a mess that no one in the family expected.

What are some of the lessons that can be learned from this story?

Even if you’re a close family member, such as a wife or a child, you can’t assume that the courts will automatically favor you in matters of guardianship.  Your familial relationships may be strong and free of unusual conflict, but that still doesn’t guarantee you guardianship; it also doesn’t mean that one day you won’t be facing off with other family members or friends in a protracted legal battle.

It’s important to draw up all the necessary legal documents in advance, and not to wait until someone is already in a position to require guardianship, such as when they have dementia.  When it’s already gotten to that point, it’s much more difficult to determine an individual’s intentions and preferences; the individual is also more susceptible to getting influenced by other people.  Families really have to sit down and talk about guardianship issues beforehand.  Even then, disputes may sometimes arise later on, though they’re less likely to when the appropriate documents have already been agreed on.

You never really know what the courts will decide in a guardianship case.  If there are any doubts about the actions or motivations of people petitioning for guardianship, their case will weaken.  It’s best to have an experienced lawyer on your side who can strengthen your case and fight for a favorable outcome.  Contact us to advocate for you in the courts and fight for the best interests of your loved ones.