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Emergency Guardianship Of An Elderly Parent

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Aging is a natural part of life, and at some point, our parents will start aging, too. When this happens, sometimes emergencies also happen, and we need to take immediate care of our family members. This need can occur when a parent is suddenly hospitalized, unresponsive, or debilitated. Depending on the situation, the elderly person may not be able to make responsible decisions for themselves. The appointment of a guardian may be necessary to ensure that medical or financial decisions can be made that are in the best interests of the vulnerable adult.

What is an emergency guardianship of a parent? Emergency guardianship is a title awarded by the court in your county when someone in your care, such as a parent or child, is incapacitated or unable to care for themself. The court grants you legal decisions over their medical care and living situation. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the guardianship process, read on. We’ll discuss what it means to be an emergency guardian, how to get emergency guardianship, and the requirements. 

What Does It Mean To Have Guardianship Over A Parent?

Guardianship is a legal title given to you by court order when you are awarded the legal responsibility to make important decisions for your parent. As the appointed guardian, you are responsible for the welfare and safety of your senior loved one.

There are different types of guardianships, which can include: 

  • The ability to view and sign medical records
  • The ability to make medical decisions for an unresponsive or unable parent
  • The ability to make medical appointments
  • The ability to choose where your parent lives and who cares for them 
  • The capacity to consent to or deny medical procedures on behalf of your parent 
  • The control of some or all of your parent’s financial affairs

Emergency guardianship is different than a full guardianship (like what someone might obtain if a parent has Alzheimer’s disease, where the condition is ongoing).

As the name implies, emergency guardianship is only granted on an emergency basis – and the appointment of a guardian is often temporary guardianship. 

Here’s an example situation: Your parent was in a coma for three weeks. For those three weeks, you were their emergency guardian and made all the decisions about their medical treatment.

When they woke up, they were in a sound enough mind to make their own decisions and care for themselves again. At that point, you no longer met the requirements to be their guardian.

Your parent may appoint a legal guardian in the case of emergency before anything happens. In this case, there will be something in their will, testament, or legal history that states you are the legal guardian of the person in case of emergency. You can then take this to court to prove their wishes.  

How To Get Emergency Guardianship Of A Parent

To get legal emergency guardianship of your parent, you’ll need to go through a few steps. Here’s how to start. 

  1. Report the emergency to Adult Protective Services, or call 911 if your parent is in a life-threatening emergency. 
  2. Get a letter outlining your parent’s state from their doctor or hospital. 
  3. Compile evidence proving that your parent is incapacitated in some way. 
  4. Submit your documentation and file the proper court forms and legal documents with the clerk of court. 
  5. For an expedited hearing, generally the court rules on the emergency order within 24 to 72 hours. 

During the guardianship proceedings, the judge may find that your parent has already expressed wishes for someone else to be their guardian. Or they may rule that a professional guardian ad litem is a better option than family. This could be due to financial or medical concerns. 

You may want to hire an attorney to handle your guardianship petition, depending on your finances and the situation. Attorneys can help the process go a little smoother if you’re not sure what you’re doing. 

How Long Does It Take To Get An Emergency Guardianship? 

Generally, it takes about 24 to 72 hours for the court to decide on the appointment of a guardian in an emergency case. However, the guardianship hearing can be delayed if you do not submit sufficient evidence or if you wait a few days to submit your claim. 

Your emergency guardianship may be awarded for just 15-30 days. You can refile with the court when your temporary order expires if your parent is still in need of a guardian at the time it expires, though. 

Emergency guardianships are short-term, but you can get long-term guardianship in some cases. Applying for a conservatorship or long-term guardianship is a long process, however. It can also be more expensive and stressful for all parties involved. 

Who Cannot Be A Guardian? 

So, can you even be a guardian? That’s a good question. Not everyone can be a guardian of their elderly parent. Generally, you’re not eligible to be a guardian if: 

  • You are a minor child (under 18 years of age). 
  • You are a convicted felon.
  • You have been suspended from practicing in the law, finance, or accounting professions. 
  • You have committed a crime of domestic abuse in the past.
  • You have filed for bankruptcy in the past seven years. 
  • You are incapacitated or disabled in some way. 

The court may simply also decide that it’s not in your parent’s best interest for you to be their guardian. In this case, they can appoint a professional guardian. However, your parent will most likely have to pay for this. 

What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Guardian? 

Being the guardian of your parent can be very helpful. This is especially true in a situation where you want to get them the proper care. However, there are some downsides that adult children should be aware of. Here are some of the main disadvantages of being a family guardian: 

  • There is a possibility that your parent won’t want to be under guardianship.
  • Your parent may hold a grudge for decisions you made for them that they disagree with after the fact. 
  • There is a high responsibility factor for being a guardianship. It may become stressful for you. 
  • You may go through legal complications and end up paying more fees than you wanted. 
  • There is trauma in seeing your parent go through an emergency. 

Even with these disadvantages, trying to do the right thing for your elderly parent is admirable. Make sure that your parent knows you love and care about them throughout the process, even if you feel they cannot understand. 

Wrapping It Up 

If you’re trying to decide whether emergency guardianship is right for your situation, this general information should help you out. Seeing your loved one go through something life-changing can be very scary. 

As you go through this process, you don’t have to go through it alone. Sometimes legal advice from an attorney can help you make difficult decisions for your parent. If you require advice, always contact a lawyer. They are experts in the field and will assist you in making any final decisions. 

Disclaimer

*Note: we are not attorneys and this article should not be construed as legal advice. Please be sure to consult an attorney for expert guidance on what will best suit your particular circumstances.

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