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Guardian systems can open door for abuse

Understanding how your needs might change as you age is important to solid estate planning, as is understanding the needs of your heirs. A chance exists that you might one day be unable to make financial decisions for yourself. For some individuals, a chance also exists that they might pass away and leave behind minor children or other heirs who are incapable of handling finances and other decisions.

In such cases, a guardian is usually appointed in some capacity to handle finances and other decisions. Because this person might wield a great deal of power over you or your heirs, it is important to select a guardian or power of attorney that you trust implicitly. Certain estate documents let you name someone to such a responsibility.

If you don't make arrangements for a certain person or people to take on this role, then the decision might be left up to the court. Someone in your family or social circle might petition the court to grant them this right, but you can't be certain the person who asks for guardianship is the person you want to have this power. In some cases, the court might make the decision to appoint a guardian. They could even rely on someone who provides such services as part of a professional career.

While many people who provide such services do so with honesty and integrity, the truth is that someone who knows you and loves you or your heirs is more likely to make the kinds of decisions you would agree with. By making your wishes known about guardian designations, you can help reduce the stress of probate litigation after your death and ensure your own quality of life in your last years should you become incapacitated.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Abuses Plague Guardianship Systems Across the Country," Ashby Jones, Oct. 30, 2015

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