Ohio allows several estate planning devices so that people can prepare for a possible disability.
Residents of the Dayton area may, for instance, use a durable power of attorney to appoint a loved one or other trusted person to make important financial decisions should the Dayton resident no longer be able to do so.
Likewise, an Ohioan may execute a healthcare power of attorney to give a loved one authority to make critical medical decisions, even those involving life and death, when the person making the appointment is not able to do so, such as after a serious illness or injury or because of advanced dementia.
Even with these estate planning devices, though, a family may find out the best course of action is for them to pursue a legal guardianship over an adult who is what Ohio law calls “incompetent”. Legally, someone is “incompetent” if he or she is no longer able to care for himself or herself and no longer able to make financial and other important decisions.
A legal guardianship may be critical if a loved one did not get around to preparing estate planning documents, as a family may otherwise have no legal authority to help their loved one with things like housing or health care.
Guardianships are complicated and ongoing court proceedings
Guardianships are technically probate administration proceedings. The state’s Probate Courts oversee guardianships just as thy do estate administrations.
One reason this makes sense is that often, guardians will be expected to inventory and manage the assets and affairs of a ward, that is the person who is subject to the guardianship.
Guardianships are complicated legal proceedings. In order to be a guardian, a person must ask the local Probate Court to create a guardianship and appoint the applicant as guardian. Interested people, including the ward, will have an opportunity to object or to propose a different guardian. A contested court hearing at this stage is possible.
Even after the guardianship gets approved, a guardian will have ongoing legal responsibilities to care for the ward and manage the ward’s finances. The guardian will have to report to the court from time to time.