Grandparents are invaluable. They share their endless wisdom with you and often spoil their grandkids. While grandparents that spoil the grandkids are awesome, incapacitated grandparents with significant assets are a problem. Assets could be depleted, even stolen, leaving your grandparents destitute in their final years. While the idea of stepping in and taking over your grandparents’ finances and/or decision-making may make you uncomfortable, not doing so could put your grandparents at risk. The Coral Gables elder law attorneys at Stivers Law discuss how to protect your elderly grandparents and their assets.
When Should You Worry about Your Grandparents’ Generosity?
Whether your grandparents appear to have modest assets or unlimited financial resources, they may have been generous with what they have your entire life – or they may have suddenly become generous. From the perspective of a grandchild, it is often difficult to know when a grandparent’s generosity should cause concern. After all, it is their money, right? While that is certainly true, if a grandparent is also suffering from mental impairment, he/she may not understand the financial and practical ramifications of that generosity. Some signs to watch for that may indicate that your grandparent’s generosity is a result of impairment include:
- A noticeable change in the number of gifts
- Gifting to unknown recipients
- Gifting more frequently
- Not gifting to long-time beneficiaries in favor of new beneficiaries
- Late payments or disconnect notices for household bills
- Gifting at odd times (and not gifting when expected)
- Signs of memory loss (forgetting names, dates, events)
Understanding Adult Guardianship
In Florida, if a court determines that an adult is unable to manage his/her affairs (finances, assets, and estate) and/or make decisions for himself/herself, the court will appoint a Guardian. Florida recognizes three types of adult Guardians:
- Guardian of the Person. As a Guardian of the person would be legally authorized to make decisions relating to personal matters and daily tasks involving the Ward. Some common decisions a guardian might make include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Where the ward will live.
- What physician will treat the ward.
- Whether or not the ward continues to be allowed to drive.
- Who may have contact with the Ward
- Guardian of the Estate. As a Guardian of the estate, you would be legally authorized to make decisions relating to the estate and finances of the Ward. For example, you might be able to decide:
- Whether or not to sell an asset
- Which bills to pay
- Whether to purchase stocks or other securities with the ward’s investment account
- Whether to enter into a contract in the Ward’s name
- Plenary Guardianship. A plenary guardianship is warranted when the Ward cannot make both financial and personal decisions. As a plenary Guardian you would make all decisions for the Ward.
Is Guardianship the Answer?
The idea of taking away a grandparent’s ability to manage his/her own finances sounds harsh. It may feel as though you are taking away their freedom and autonomy. Guardianship is, in fact, the avenue of last resort in the eyes of the law. A court will only consider guardianship when less intrusive alternatives are not appropriate.
How Do I Become My Grandparent’s Guardian?
If you are worried about your elderly grandparents, consult with an experienced elder law attorney right away. Your attorney can help you decide if guardianship is the best option. To become your grandparent’s Guardian, you must file a petition with the appropriate court. Both the proposed ward and immediate relatives must be formally notified of the petition as well. The court will assign a court investigator after the petition has been filed and eventually a hearing will be set to determine if your grandparent needs a Guardian and, if so, what type of Guardian is needed. The court will then decide if you are an appropriate person to appoint as the Guardian.
Contact Coral Gables Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to protect your grandparents, contact the experienced Coral Gables elder law attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.