Guardians and conservators are appointed to protect a minor child or an incapacitated person, that is, someone who cannot make decisions without assistance. In South Dakota, a guardian is authorized to make personal and heath care decisions for an incapacitated individual, while a conservator is authorized to make financial decisions.

A guardian’s authority can be extremely broad or rather limited. For example, in addition to making general personal and health care decisions, a guardian may be authorized to determine whether the incapacitated person can have visitors, attend social gatherings and more. Similarly, a conservator’s authority over a person’s finances can be broad or limited. The extent of the guardian’s or conservator’s authority will be set forth in a Judge’s orders.

Without proper planning, a Judge will appoint a guardian and conservator. This could very well be someone you never would have wanted to make these important decisions for you. In addition, the guardianship and conservatorship process can take a long time, cost a great deal of money, and is emotionally stressful for all family members involved. Disputes often arise over who should be named guardian or conservator. The hard feelings among family members can last a lifetime.

At Legacy Law Firm, P.C. we can use a number of tools and strategies to help you (and subsequently, your family) avoid a court proceeding.  These include advance directives such as a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a Living Will, or Revocable Living Trusts. A Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to name a person in advance to make financial decisions on your behalf. A Power of Attorney for Healthcare lets you choose the person you want to make medical decisions. It also allows you to specify the types of medical care you want (or do not want) in an end of life situation. If you don’t have a healthcare agent to act for you, you can also execute a Living Will to handle end-of-life decisions. We recommend that all our clients have us prepare these documents in advance in case they are needed.

That said, if you are faced with a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding involving a minor child or an incapacitated loved one, you do not have to go through it alone. We can guide you through every stage of the process while protecting your interests and those of your loved one.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with our South Dakota guardianship and conservatorship lawyers to discuss your needs and goals.