Incapacity Planning - Living Wills, Guardianship, and Conservatorship

Advanced Medical Directives (e.g., living wills)
A living will outlines a person's wishes about medical treatments that sustain or prolong life while they are in a coma or a persistent vegetative state. If a person is in this type of condition, doctors will refer to his or her living will to determine whether or not the patient wishes to stay on life support or to be removed from it. This legal document prevents your family from having to make the difficult decision, and prevents arguments and alienation among family members, each of whom may have different ideas about which actions to take.

Other terms for living wills are advance directive, healthcare directive and physician's directive, but each serve the same purpose of informing health care professionals of the wishes concerning long-term life-sustaining care

Guardianship and Conservatorship
A guardianship is a legal proceeding in which an individual is appointed to provide for an incapacitated person. A guardian appointed by a court can be a burdensome and expensive process. The person needing the guardians help is called the "ward." The guardian is the person with the power to make decisions about the ward's person. Guardian types include:

  • Limited guardianship - legal abilities are limited because the person needing the guardian's help (the ward) can make some, but not all, decisions.
  • Plenary guardianship the guardian can make all decisions for a ward's personal care and finances. It is a broad scope of power.
  • Temporary guardianship - used for emergencies. The guardian's power is limited to a short period of time.
  • Successor guardianship - this is the replacement guardian. This is used primarily if the first guardian resigns or can't continue serving due to death or illness.
  • Standby guardianship - allows a court to provide a backup guardian, to quickly change between guardians which limits the gaps in caring for a ward's needs.
  • Testamentary guardianship - a guardian can name a successor in their will, say to care for an adult disabled child. The court needs to approve the successor, but usually follows the will unless it finds the nominee isn't fit to serve.
  • Short-term guardianship If a guardian needs an alternate guardian to fill in, they can use this short-term guardian. It is not permanent.

"Conservatorship" refers to the person with responsibility for a ward's property and finances.

Revocable Living Trust


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