Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal issues unique to older adults. These include establishing guardianships and conservatorships when necessary due to incapacity, paying for nursing home care, and protection of assets after admission to a nursing home. When a person becomes unable to handle his or her personal affairs due to advanced age or disability and has failed to plan for that eventuality, or when a developmentally disabled child becomes an adult who still needs care and guidance, we help our clients to secure the authority necessary to act on behalf of the adult in need of protection through guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.
A legal guardian is a court-appointed advocate who has the right to make care, custody, and medical treatment decisions for the person for whom they have been appointed guardian. A guardianship is required when a person is legally incapacitated and there is no one with legal authority to oversee the physical care of that person. A designation of a Patient Advocate before incapacity often eliminates the need for a court-appointed guardian.
A conservator is appointed by the probate court to assist a legally incapacitated person with their financial affairs. Again, if no one has been given the proper legal authority in advance, the probate court will formally appoint the individual who it finds is most appropriate to manage the financial affairs of an incapacitated individual.
When a child's parents are not available for whatever reason to care and make decisions for the child, a guardianship can give that authority to another party. These decisions include school enrollment, medical treatment, securing health insurance, and other things the parent would do, if able. If the child has significant assets or financial resources, a conservator may be needed as well.
Developmentally Disabled Adults
Guardianship proceedings for adults with a develomental disability that manifested before the age of 22 are handled under the Michigan Mental Health Code, rather than the Estates and Protected Individuals Code. There are similarities in the process and terminology, but there are important differences, as well. A guardian of the person makes decisions affecting the well-being of the individual; a guardian of the estate manages the individual's finances and assets.