What to Do When a Family Member Needs a Guardian

Seeking a guardianship for a loved one is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Here's how the process works.

A woman smiles while sitting next to her father.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gerald Teaster spent five years as his mother's legal guardian trying to balance her need for independence with his responsibility to protect her. There was the time that she tried to rent out a mobile home she owned to a stranger, and Teaster had to step in and tell the tenant that his mother couldn't legally agree to the contract. Then there was her insistence to only use cash so Teaster, a retired attorney, gave her $500 a month to spend. And there was the fight over where she would live. Teaster's mother didn't want to leave her home in Marion, Va., though eventually a fall and hospital stay forced the issue and she agreed to move into a nursing home.

Still, Teaster tried to take his mother's wishes into account until she passed away in 2017 at the age of 87. As guardian, "you may have the power to do it legally," Teaster, 65, of Blacksburg, Va., says, "but how do you force your mother to leave the house she has lived in for 50 years?"

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Senior Retirement Editor, Kiplinger.com

Jackie Stewart is the senior retirement editor for Kiplinger.com and the senior editor for Kiplinger's Retirement Report.