If someone you love is losing their mind, literally, you may feel a need to intervene and find help for them. Knowing a loved one needs help and not knowing what to do is anxiety-producing. However, there are ways to help without losing your own mind. In many cases, you may ask the court to appoint a guardian. To get a court process started, you will need to fill out guardianship forms and submit them to the clerk of court in the county where your loved one lives.
Why Get Help?
There are many reasons you may feel a need to step in and help another adult struggling to care for themselves. Perhaps they have a physical medical condition and are barely able to handle their daily activities of living. Or they may have a chronic mental disorder that has recently worsened. Some of the reasons you may ask a court to intervene and assign a guardian to another adult include:
- Mental illness
- Mental retardation
- Cerebral palsy
- Other cause and give facts demonstrating lack of capacity
Where are the Forms I Need?
The NC Judicial Branch put the forms you need online: PETITION FOR ADJUDICATION OF INCOMPETENCE AND APPLICATION FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN OR LIMITED GUARDIAN. You can fill out the form to let the court know of the problem and work out how best to help the incompetent individual. If you have too much going on in your own life or feel as though you would be unsuitable as a guardian of another adult, the court can find and appoint a suitable guardian for your loved one.
What If My Loved One Needs Help NOW?
When you file the form, there is a checkbox where you can ask for a temporary guardian until the court appoints a permanent one. In these cases, you will also complete and attach form AOC-SP-198, Motion For Appointment Of Interim Guardian. You can make this request for an interim guardian to intervene on your loved one’s behalf before the hearing.
If you are seriously concerned for the individual’s welfare in the next ten days, a temporary interim guardian may be necessary. Of course, you can always fill out the forms and let the courts decide whether a temporary guardian is required.
For example, if your widowed grandmother, who is 82 and suffering from senility, refuses to see a doctor and is planning to refinance her home, you might ask her questions out of concern. If you found out that the lender she is using is a known financial predator, you might want to help her see the danger. However, if your grandmother won’t listen and is not making wise decisions because of a possible mental condition, you may help by intervening through the court system.
A court-mandated doctor visit to find out if she needs intervention could save her home and her ability to stay in it in the future. In addition, obtaining a temporary guardian until the permanent decision could make all the difference if she plans to sign financial papers soon.
What Proof Do I Need?
You will need to show that your loved one lacks sufficient capacity to manage their own affairs or make or communicate important decisions concerning themselves, family, or property. In addition, you will need facts and supporting documentation to support your position.
The court will look at many different types of evidence, including witness statements, to decide whether your loved one needs a guardian and who the guardian should be. Types of evidence considered include:
- Mental Health and substance abuse records
- Hospital records
- Records that show any financial exploitation
- Department of social services records
- Law enforcement records
- Doctor’s records that show mental or physical incompetence
If you are genuinely concerned for your loved one, there will be ways to show that they need help. You must look for those around your loved one who have also seen the need for support and can help you paint the picture for the court.
Asking for Guardianship
Often, the court will appoint a Guardian ad litem to your loved one during the time before the hearing. Usually, the guardian ad litem is an attorney who will contact you to find out why you’ve submitted the petition. The guardian ad litem represents the best interests of your loved one. They will ask many questions of you and others. If you are asking for guardianship for yourself, they will most likely order a background check for you and also ask about your:
- Life in general: What kind of person are you?
- Background: Are you a responsible person?
- Reasons for wanting guardianship: Is your desire out of caring, or is it for some kind of profit or gain?
- Capabilities: Are you the kind of person who can get the things done that need to happen when caring for another person?
- Time constraints: Do you have the time to care for or arrange for the care of another person?
- Other responsibilities: Do you have a career, children, or a spouse that will prevent you from becoming a responsible guardian?
What If I Don’t Want to Be the Guardian?
If you are not asking for guardianship, the guardian ad litem will most likely ask for your recommendations and any facts of the case before making a recommendation to the court. The guardian ad litem for your loved one represents your loved one’s best interests and may or may not agree with your thoughts.
You will want to answer any questions the guardian ad litem might have and complete any tasks they ask of you to help the case move forward. Of course, you can always recommend someone or give your ideas to the guardian ad litem. You can also talk to the court at the hearing about what you believe is best for your loved one.
If your loved one is unable to care for themselves, don’t wait to take action. Instead, go ahead and find the help they need. A discussion with an attorney is an excellent place to start. An experienced guardianship attorney can help you understand what your next steps may be.
At Vail Gardner Law, our focus is on caring well for ourselves and our loved ones through planning. Planning well includes making the hard decisions for ourselves before someone else has to. If you need help preparing for your future or that of your family and loved ones, contact us for a free initial consultation.