It's frightening and upsetting when your loved one can no longer make decisions for themselves. Older adults may spend money recklessly, fail to pay bills, and make other poor choices if they're not of sound mind.
Serving as a guardian allows you to step in and make choices on your family member's behalf. Learn how to establish guardianship in Georgia below.
Is Guardianship the Same as Conservatorship?
Guardianship and conservatorship may seem similar, but they're not the same thing. A conservator can only manage someone's financial affairs, such as paying bills and writing checks for them, and managing their assets including money and property. Legal guardians, on the other hand, have the ability to make a variety of decisions for their ward, including taking care of their physical well-being, healthcare, and the like. As a legal guardian, you can make decisions regarding medical treatment, housing, travel, and other powers as may be granted by the court.
If a person still has some decision-making ability, the court may permit you to establish limited guardianship rather than full guardianship. This means you can make certain choices for the person, such as their medical care, while still allowing them decision-making power over other parts of their life.
Who Can Serve as a Guardian?
Nearly anyone can serve as a guardian, but the court likes to follow an order of preference when choosing someone for the role.
If the person named someone to serve as guardian when they were of sound mind, the court will choose that person first. If their estate plan doesn't name a guardian, a spouse or adult child is generally next in line.
If an adult child or spouse isn't available, the court will look for a previously established guardian in Georgia or a different state. Failing that, they'll choose a capable volunteer.
If no volunteer steps up to serve as guardian, the county will appoint a public official to fill the role.
How to Become a Guardian in Georgia
To establish guardianship in Georgia, you'll need to file a petition with the probate court in the county where your loved one lives. You'll pay filing fees, which vary by county.
The court will order an evaluation to determine whether the person needs a guardian. Your loved one has the right to contest the proposed guardianship, and he or she can hire a lawyer if they wish.
Common Issues With Establishing Guardianship
Setting up guardianship involves taking away someone's right to make many choices. It restricts their ability to choose medical treatment, marry, vote, and manage things that they've had the ability to do for their lifetime. Naturally, your loved one may try to contest your petition by saying they don't need your help, or the help of anyone else, even if they clearly do.
It's also common for family members to disagree on who should serve as guardian. If this happens, reach out to a lawyer who handles guardianships for advice.
Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts for Help With Establishing Guardianship Choices in Georgia
At our firm, we help our estate planning clients nominate their choices for people who can serve as their guardian or conservator if one is needed, and, of course, we use appropriate estate planning tools to help prevent the need for a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding being necessary in the first place. That can save time, energy and money, and avoid unnecessary hardships on the person and their family. We don't handle standalone guardianship or conservatorship cases at this time, but may be able to refer you to a trusted professional who does. Call Peach State Wills & Trusts at (678) 344-5342 to learn more about the estate planning process, which includes nominations for guardians and conservators if such a proceeding is needed.