Why is choosing a guardian important?

Many people don’t think about estate planning until fairly late in their life, because they don’t see the need for estate planning at a younger age. What most people do not want to acknowledge is the fact that they could be seriously injured and incapacitated at an unexpected time. If this were to happen, having a guardian in place to make decisions for you is extremely important.

What decisions does a guardian make?

A guardian is appointed when a person becomes physically/mentally incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. Guardians generally make decisions regarding the person’s medical treatment and possibly their education and the purchase of items like food and clothing. A conservator can also be appointed, who makes financial decisions. A guardian and conservator can be the same person, but in some cases, only one or the other may be needed.

Appointing your own guardian vs. court decision

Guardians are often appointed in wills, which is one reason that it is wise for adults to create a will regardless of age. Guardians must consent to being chosen, and they can later be removed if they do not deliver proper care for the person. Think carefully about who you would trust to make these decisions for you and who is willing to be your guardian if the need arises.

If you don’t appoint a guardian, court will be in charge of choosing one for you if you ever become incapacitated. At that point, you will have no say in the matter. Usually, a court-appointed guardian is:

  •  Your spouse
  •  Your parent(s) or another relative
  •  A state employee
  •  Someone familiar with you and your condition

By appointing a guardian in a will, you can have peace of mind about who would care for you if something tragic were to happen. It also prepares the guardian ahead of time. Even if you would choose your spouse, for example, appointing them ahead of time allows you to ask about their willingness to be a guardian and discuss your wishes with them instead of the unexpected nature of court appointing them after a tragedy.