Legal Assistance for Guardianship and Conservatorship in Charleston

Legal Guardianship for Injured, Disabled,
or Elderly Family Members

The Law Office of James T. Cooper provides professional legal counseling, representation, and assistance for individuals requiring guidance with the process of securing guardianship or conservatorship for incapacitated persons in their care.

Attorney Cooper provides the compassionate and seasoned legal expertise necessary to ensure that all relevant issues related to your guardianship or conservatorship are resolved to allow you to best care for the incapacitated individual in need of your assistance.

Incapacitated individuals may include:

  • Mentally Disabled Adult Children
  • Elderly Family Members Dealing With Complications of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Special Needs Individuals
  • Severely Injured Persons Unexpected to Recover

Guardianship appointments are drastic measures from a legal standpoint because they strip an individual of nearly all of his basic legal rights. This legal status causes the incapacitated person to lose all rights of self-governance including the right to write checks, sign contracts, and make all decisions including where he lives, which medications he will take, and what type of medical care he will receive. Additionally, he may lose the right to drive, vote, carry a weapon, or change his marital status. Consequently, the courts are very careful to ensure that the measure to appoint a guardian is necessary, and if so, that the guardian himself is capable in all ways of handling the duties involved.

The Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Guardianship

When you are appointed to be the guardian of your incapacitated family member or friend, you are fully legally responsible to provide complete care for him, including all aspects of life such as his:

  • Support
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Sustenance
  • Education
  • Recreation
  • Care

The legal and ethical responsibilities can be overwhelming because the incapacitated person may not have the ability and no longer has the authority over himself to make decisions affecting any areas of his life. He will depend on you completely to make all of his necessary life decisions.

Guardianship for Special Needs Adult Children

Typically, minors under the age of 18 are automatically under the guardianship of their parents until they reach the age of adult maturity, at which point all of the legal and financial rights, duties, and responsibilities inherent with adulthood are conferred upon them. After reaching adulthood, parents normally cease to be responsible for handling the legal, financial, educational, medical, and all other aspects of their adult child’s life. However, this automatic loss of authority and involvement in an adult child’s life is not always in the best interest of the adult child with special needs.

Continuity of Care

If you anticipate that you will need to become the guardian of your adult child with special needs or catastrophic injuries, you should contact Attorney Cooper as soon as possible in the years leading up to the age of 18 to ensure that there will be no lack of continuity of care. In cases where the individual in question is incapable of responsibly handling or understanding his own affairs, guardianship is the optimal solution.

Guardianship and Special Needs Financial Planning

Beyond securing guardianship for adult children with special needs or those who have suffered major chronic traumatic injuries, it is important to ensure that your special needs or traumatically injured adult child will have access to both the appropriate financial support and the government programs necessary to ensure that he will be able to live the best life possible. The ideal tool for achieving this goal is a planned trust established for the benefit of your adult special needs child.

With proper financial planning, funds can placed into a special needs trust and accessed for the child’s benefit during the parents’ lifetime or the trust can come into existence upon the death of the parents with funds coming from sources including insurance benefits, bequests, asset transfers, etc.

Ensure Access to and Eligibility for Vital Services

A trust is important tool to secure your child from being denied access to vital social and governmental services that he will require to function in society. These services may include government benefits such as vocational training, education and vocational support, housing and medical assistance, and additional programs that are available to help him have the best possible quality of life. The trust must be specifically structured and administered in such a way as to prevent your special needs adult child from jeopardizing his eligibility for these programs.

The rules that apply to special needs trusts are very complex and constantly changing. As the trustee, you must stay informed of and vigilant to any changes that may require the trust to be altered as necessary to protect the beneficiary’s continued eligibility for vital services. The Law Office of James T. Cooper is available to assist you with setting up an appropriate special needs trust to ensure that your special needs or traumatically injured adult child will have his interests preserved.

Protect Your Loved One’s Finances With a Conservatorship

If your loved one is incapable of handling his own financial affairs, he will be appointed a conservator by the court. If you anticipate that an individual who you care for will require a conservator, you may be appointed by the court to handle and protect his finances.

In most cases, even when an incapacitated individual is appointed a guardian, he will not need or require a financial conservator. This is because, generally speaking, incapacitated children and adults tend to have either meager means that do not require formal fiduciary services or they already have a trust set up to handle assets gained from settlement of the injury that caused their incapacitation. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients who require assistance with managing their finances are typically assigned a representative payee to assist with handling their affairs.

Your Duties As Fiduciary and Conservator

If an incapacitated individual has substantial financial means, land holdings, capital, etc. that require formal management, Attorney James T. Cooper will help you set up a conservatorship in accordance with the applicable laws to ensure that all of your duties as fiduciary for the incapacitated person (conservatee) are carried out both in accordance with the law and the desires of the conservatee to the strongest extent possible. There are a significant amount of duties involved with your role as conservator including the responsibility to:

  • Make Regular Financial Reports to the Court or Designated Agencies
  • Regularly Report the Welfare of the Conservatee to Specific Social Service Agencies
  • Provide Exact Accounting to the Account Commissioner Regarding All Assets Managed for the Conservatee
  • Keep the Conservator’s Funds Completely Separate From the Conservatee’s Funds

Legal Assistance With Guardianship
and Conservatorship Petitions

When an individual is incapable of handling his own financial, medical, and other affairs involving his life, he is considered legally incapacitated and will be assigned a guardian by the court. If you anticipate that your adult child, aging parent, spouse, or other loved one is or will become incapacitated in the near future (for example, if his mental capabilities are progressively deteriorating from Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia), you should contact the Law Office of James T. Cooper right away to schedule an appointment to discuss becoming the legal guardian of your loved one. In some cases, concerned friends and those who have different types of caring relationships with the incapacitated person will seek guardianship to protect the individual.

Deciding Whether Guardianship or Conservatorship is Appropriate

Our office will represent you in your petition to be assigned as the guardian and/ or conservator of your special needs adult child, elderly parent, or other incapacitated person. We can help you decide whether the decision is appropriate, and if so, will assist you with the preparation of evidence, pleadings, and presentation of your request to the court.

In response to your request to serve as guardian or conservator, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem –an independent attorney who is trained and experienced to serve in the capacity as the attorney who will represent the rights of the respondent. The respondent may object to the proceeding, subpoena witnesses to support his case that he is not incapacitated, question the petitioner’s witnesses, and have his own attorney represent him throughout the proceeding.

Attorney James T. Cooper is trained and experienced to serve on both sides of guardianship and conservator petitions as counsel for the petitioner to assist with having the respondent declared incompetent for his best interest, counselor for the respondent (conservatee) when a petition appears to have been improperly brought before the court, and as guardian ad litem for the court.

It is very important to consult with a qualified attorney such as Attorney Cooper to discuss the particular situation regarding guardianship or conservatorship of your family member or loved one. The duties involved are immense and it is important to ensure that all legalities are taken care of appropriately. In come cases, less restrictive options may also exist depending on the level of incapacity involved.

Contact the Law Office of Attorney James T. Cooper to schedule
a consultation today. Call: (304) 344-3542.