In many families, there are multiple individuals who wish to protect an aging or cognitively-impaired individual in need of a guardianship. Maybe an older person has several children, all of whom wish to protect their interests. Maybe a spouse wants to serve as guardian most of the time but needs another person to step in at times to help out. It’s always great to see a loving family where all the individuals involved have good intentions and want to help. But is it a good idea to have co-guardians? There can be pros and cons to consider.
When considering the appropriateness of a co-guardianship arrangement, you should always discuss it with a skilled guardianship attorney first. The last thing you want is to end up in court fighting over who should serve. This can create a costly and painful situation that can destroy relationships and leave families frustrated and exhausted. At the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC, we have lots of experience helping families deal with just these issues. Give us a call to talk about your case and get the answers you deserve. Here are just some of the considerations you may want to think about.
When Should You Consider Co-Guardians?
In many cases, there will actually need to be someone in place to make healthcare and personal decisions (guardian), and someone in place to make financial and economic decisions (conservator). Ideally, this is usually one person. Typically, it’s best if this person is a spouse, adult child, or another close relative who knows the person very well and will follow their wishes.
A guardian or conservator is a fiduciary, meaning they must act in the best interests of the ward (the disabled individual), and use their funds solely for the ward’s benefit. There are generally only a couple of situations where co-guardians make sense.
- One guardian travels a lot. Perhaps the only close relative who can serve has a job that requires frequent travel out of town. If so, they may not always be around to make quick in-the-moment decisions. It may make sense to appoint a local individual to serve as co-guardian when the primary decision-maker is away.
- One guardian has serious health issues. For older adults, a spouse may serve as guardian. However, this person might also have health needs that make it difficult to always be available.
- Guardians have special skills. Occasionally, one guardian may be a nurse or physician and be in a great position to serve as a guardian for healthcare needs, but another individual may have experience in financial matters that would make them an ideal conservator.
When Should Co-Guardianship Be Avoided?
In most situations, it’s best for one person to serve. Consider what might happen if the guardians disagree. This could lead to fighting and disputes that require a court’s involvement, thereby driving up expenses for the disabled person. Likewise, if one serves as healthcare decision-maker and the other serves as financial conservator, there are times when the person in charge of money may disagree with health decisions, leading to a battle over funding needed to carry out healthcare and other personal decisions.
Finally, if there is any chance that the co-guardians may not get along or work together well, then co-guardianship may be ill-advised. If you have concerns about establishing either a conservatorship or guardianship for a loved one, talk to an experienced attorney as early as possible to avoid complications.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.