When an adult is unable to make important life decisions there are typically two options, powers of attorney, and guardianship.
The first option requires a little planning. Durable powers of attorney (both for financial and medical decisions) can be created when the individual is still able to make decisions on their own. If they become incapacitated in the future, those powers of attorney give their agent the power to act on their behalf.
The second option requires court involvement. If the adult was never able to make decisions on their own, or they currently are unable to do so, guardianship may be the answer. A court appointed guardian possesses the authority to make pivotal life decisions for someone unable to do so independently.
Legal Framework in Idaho:
Idaho, like other states, establishes guardianship through a legal process. When an individual is deemed incapable of making important life decisions due to factors like age, mental incapacity, or disability, a guardian may be appointed by the court. This legal relationship empowers the guardian to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person, known as the protected person.
Scope of Decision-Making:
A guardian’s authority in Idaho extends across various aspects of the protected person’s life. This includes decisions related to healthcare, living arrangements, and more. The goal is to act in the best interests of the protected person, ensuring their well-being and safety in the face of challenges that hinder independent decision-making. It is important to know that in Idaho, financial decisions are made by a court appointed conservator, and not the guardian. In many situations the guardian and the conservator are the same person.
Court Oversight in Idaho:
Idaho includes court oversight in the guardianship process. This oversight is a protective measure to prevent the potential misuse of power. The court ensures that decisions made by the guardian align with the protective person’s best interests, offering a level of accountability and transparency in the decision-making process. Annual reports are required to be submitted to the court to document living arrangements and the key decisions made.
Positive Aspects of Guardianship:
- Supportive Care:
Guardianship in Idaho acts as a supportive framework, ensuring individuals facing decision-making challenges receive the care they need. Guardians become advocates for the well-being of the protective person, navigating complex choices with a focus on providing support and assistance.
- Legal Clarity:
The legal structure surrounding guardianship provides clarity for both guardians and families. When faced with the responsibility of making decisions for an incapacitated loved one, the formalized process enables clear and legally sanctioned actions, promoting the best interests of the protected person.
Negative Aspects of Guardianship:
- Loss of Autonomy:
A significant trade-off in guardianship is the potential loss of personal autonomy for the protected person. Everyday decisions that most take for granted are transferred to the hands of another, potentially leading to feelings of helplessness or frustration.
- Risk of Misuse:
Despite court oversight, there is always a risk of the misuse of power in guardianship. Idaho guardians must be chosen and monitored carefully to prevent any potential abuse. Instances of exploitation, though not common, emphasize the importance of vigilance within the guardianship system.
Next Steps in Idaho Guardianship:
If you are considering the need for guardianship, you should seek legal advice and explore other options. An attorney specializing in guardianship can provide guidance on the process, rights, and responsibilities. You can also investigate alternative options to guardianship, such as power of attorney and a living will. These alternatives may offer more tailored solutions without the need for full guardianship.
If you do become a guardian, be sure to conduct regular reviews of the protected person’s situation to ensure decisions align with their evolving needs. This proactive approach helps prevent potential issues and ensures the ongoing well-being of the protected person.
If you live in Idaho and want more information, you can find answers to frequently asked questions on our website, and Idaho Code § 66-401 et seq, Idaho Code § 15-5-101, and Idaho Code § 15-5-301 et seq