Are there alternatives to guardianship?

If you have a special needs relative or a loved one in declining health, the subject of a guardianship has probably come up. It is natural to agonize over this decision since appointing a guardian will take away a lot of rights your relative used to enjoy. Alternatives to a guardianship do exist, however. 

Before you commit to a guardianship, it may help to think about other ways you can help your family member so that your relative does not lose too much independence. The North Carolina government website explains the various options available to you. 

Make a support plan

Your relative may just need assistance with various areas of life. If so, you could consider writing out a plan that names individuals to help out your family member. Someone like a sibling or a friend may help your relative with financial advice. Another may function as a caretaker. You might also ask someone to deliver groceries or handle clothing duties. 

Prepare advance directives

Your relative may be doing fine at the moment but could experience a decline in mental ability sometime in the future. Your family member can prepare by composing a living will or an advance directive. This document will establish how doctors should provide medical treatment when your relative can no longer make health care decisions. Your loved one may also use an Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment to describe possible treatment for mental issues. 

Create a power of attorney

A power of attorney can give a person powers similar to a guardian, except a POA does not require a court order. In the event your family member suffers incapacitation, the POA will kick in. The POA, also known as an agent, will take over health care decisions on behalf of your relative. If the POA document assigns such power, the agent may also handle financial decisions. 

Using a trust

Your relative may function well at home and even out in public. The problem is that your loved one has problems making decisions pertaining to property or assets. To help your family member, you may create a living trust to house the assets of your relative. The trust can pay an income to your relative for specific purposes like food, medicine or educational expenses. You may also create a special needs trust to hold assets so that your relative remains eligible for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.