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The dos and don’ts of serving as a guardian for your parent

A parent falling ill is a devastating experience for any child, even adult children. There can be a host of unexpected issues and obstacles that arise, particularly if a parent’s condition renders them unable to make decisions or take care of themselves.

In these situations, an adult child could be named as their parent’s guardian or committee. This can be uncomfortable, as children typically are used to having things the other way around. If you find yourself in this situation, it can be helpful to understand what to do and what not to do if the courts appoint you as committee.

What you should do

The following are some examples of what you should do as committee or guardian of your parent. In this role, do:

  • Understand the two types of committee (Committee of the estate, which manages financial and legal affairs, and committee of the person, which manages personal and medical care);
  • Keep diligent records of any transactions and significant events;
  • Provide necessary data to the Public Guardian and Trustee;
  • Make decisions based on what is in the best interests of your parent;
  • Encourage your parent’s participation in decision-making when appropriate;
  • Appreciate that this could be a confusing and painful situation for your parent, so compassion and patience will be critical.

Taking these steps as committee allows you to act lawfully and fulfill your duties successfully. These steps can also reassure parents and loved ones that there is someone responsible and caring representing a vulnerable person. 

What you should not do

An adult guardianship or committeeship is a powerful role. If you serve in this capacity, missteps on your part can lead to painful consequences for your parent and others. As such, you should not:

  • Take advantage of your parent;
  • Profit at the expense of your parent;
  • Neglect your duties and responsibilities;
  • Overlook the importance of your role;
  • Serve in this capacity unless the courts determine your parent to be incapable;
  • Apply to be committee if you are unqualified, unavailable or uninterested in protecting your parent.

Parties who can successfully avoid these missteps can prevent legal disputes and conflict, which can only make an already painful situation worse.

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