If you have an elderly relative who needs help making decisions, you may want to consider becoming a guardian. A successful guardianship arrangement can be beneficial to all involved. When there is a trusted person at the helm, who truly acts in the best interests of a loved one, the loved one is well taken care of and can often thrive. Your loved one will no longer have to worry about their finances or making any major decisions. Before you start the process of becoming a guardian, however, it is important to have a detailed understanding of what your duties and responsibilities will be as a guardian, how the court will determine whether or not you should be appointed, and how Oregon law seeks to limit and oversee the powers of a guardian.
Under Oregon law, guardianships must “encourage the development of maximum self-reliance and independence of the protected person.” A guardian has several essential duties:
A “general” guardian (meaning that no specific limitations on the guardian’s authority have been set) has the following powers and duties:
Importantly, Oregon law prohibits a guardian from placing the protected person in a mental health treatment facility, nursing home, or residential facility unless the guardian gives prior written notice to the court, as well as to the protected person and other interested parties, and gives the protected person the opportunity to object and to have a hearing.
As a guardian, you will be required to file a report with the court once each year describing, among other things, how the protected person is doing, how the guardianship powers have been used during the year, and whether or not the guardianship should be continued.
Only a court can set up a guardianship. Under Oregon law, a guardian may be appointed “only as is necessary to promote and protect the well-being of the protected person.” In evaluating a petition to be appointed as a guardian, the judge will consider whether or not the evidence shows that:
Guardians may be family members, friends, or qualified professionals, including non-profit agencies or public programs. Notably, Oregon law gives preference to a family member to act as guardian.
The protected person must be notified if you are seeking to be appointed guardian, and he or she will have the opportunity to object and to request a hearing. Notice must also be given to any other interested parties. The court will also send an independent investigator (called a court visitor) to meet with the protected person to verify whether or not a guardian is needed and to evaluate the suitability of the proposed guardian.
After the court visitor submits a report, and a hearing is held (if requested), the court will rule on the petition. The guardianship judgment may be tailored to meet the protected person’s actual mental and physical limitations so that the scope of the guardianship is the least restrictive possible.
If you need assistance becoming a guardian for an elderly loved one, we welcome you to contact Litowich Law. Based in Salem, we serve clients throughout Oregon and are dedicated to helping to protect you and your family now and for the future.