We may be lucky to reach retirement, but that does not mean we will arrive there in good health. Some people develop mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia either as an early-onset condition or one that affects them in their older years. These people may need help managing their personal and financial affairs.

What is guardianship?

In Kentucky, guardianship involves a person appointed by the court to look after a person with a mental condition that keeps them from being able to manage their personal and/or financial needs. This person is referred to as the ward.

There are guardians and conservators under Kentucky law. There are personal guardians, conservators, limited guardians and limited conservators. Sometimes, a person is assigned to be both full guardian and full conservator.

Types of guardians and conservators

A personal guardian is fully responsible for the ward’s personal affairs. This could include making living arrangements and health care decisions. The ward must be deemed totally incapable of meeting these types of needs themselves.

A limited guardian is appointed when the ward can meet some, but not all, of their personal needs. The court will dictate the extent to which the limited guardian can take over the ward’s personal needs.

A conservator is fully responsible for managing the ward’s financial and fiduciary affairs. The ward must be deemed totally incapable of making appropriate financial decisions on their own.

A limited conservator is appointed when the ward needs limited assistance managing certain financial affairs. The court will dictate the extent to which the limited conservator can make financial and/or fiduciary decisions on behalf of the ward.

You can plan for mental incapacitation

No one wants to think they will develop an incapacitating mental illness as they age, but it is an unfortunately common occurrence. You can plan for this circumstance ahead of time by selecting a guardian and/or conservator in your estate plan. While the court still must approve this person to fulfill that role, it is likely that your wishes will be met that can give you peace of mind.