Enduring Guardian

Understanding the Fine Points of an Enduring Guardian

You may be wondering why everyone should have an enduring guardian. Yes, you read that right... EVERYONE!

I get it, if you're young and relatively healthy, there's a good chance you've never considered that you could lose capacity to make your own decisions.

elderly woman in a wheelchair outside with her enduring guardian holding her hand

It's a scary thought, right?

But the truth is, life can change in a heartbeat!  For example, let's say you're a star athlete in optimal health driving to the store. Out of nowhere the unimaginable happens... you get in a horrible wreck that leaves you in a coma, or compromised mental state.

If you're growing older or have failing health, you may have already considered appointing an enduring guardian.  Whatever your age, health, and mental state, you should be prepared!  

What you need to know... An enduring guardian is someone you appoint to make decisions about your lifestyle, health care, and personal circumstances if you are unable make those decisions for yourself. 

What’s the Difference Between An Enduring Guardian and An Enduring Power of Attorney?

We know legal names and documents can be a bit confusing.  Especially when the documents include some of the same words in the title. However, it’s actually pretty simple to tell the difference between the two legal classifications.

Okay, let's talk about MONEY & THINGS - An enduring power of attorney is only allowed to be in charge of your financial and property decisions. This means, your attorney has absolutely no say in your lifestyle, health care, and personal welfare decisions. 

On the other hand, when it comes to an enduring guardian, think LIFESTYLE - An enduring guardian can only make decisions about your lifestyle, health care and personal welfare. Your guardian can not make any of your financial or property decisions.

If I have an Enduring Guardian do I also need a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy is a legal document in which a person names an agent to make medical decisions on the person’s behalf, if that person is incapable of making decisions for themself.

Therefore, it is not required to have both documents. But, a health care proxy seems to be the more popular choice because it is a legal document that outlines only your health care wishes.

Why Appointing An Enduring Guardian Is Important

Thinking about losing your mental capacity to make your own decisions is probably not top of mind. But by now, hopefully you are starting to understand why It’s important to plan ahead. 

Appointing an enduring guardian will give you peace of mind knowing you have someone in place place to make decisions that are in your best interest and take care of you if the unthinkable happens.

Furthermore, by naming a guardian, you ensure that someone you trust will be handling your lifestyle, health care, and personal choices for you when you’re not able.

What Will Happen If I Don’t Name an Enduring Guardian?

If keep putting off organizing your life and you decide not to appoint an enduring guardian, your family will be left to guess at what your wishes are. Also, it is common for loved ones to have different ideas or opinions on what is best for you. 

As a result, a family member can apply to be your guardian, but their wishes must be approved by the local government. Often, this is a long drawn out process. If the court deems the person is not fit to be your guardian, they will appoint someone else.

Choosing your enduring guardian ahead of time will be less stressful for your family, and won’t lead to any delays if health care decisions need to be made right away.

Who Can I Appoint as My Enduring Guardian?

There are some key factors you should think about when trying to decide who should be your guardian.

Keep these things in mind when deciding who to appoint: 

  • Your guardian can be anyone who is over 18 years old.
  • You can’t pick someone who is directly involved in your medical care or treatment, like a doctor.
  • You can choose more than one person.
  • It’s good to choose an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable to fulfill their responsibilities.

How to Choose the Right Person

Okay, this is a big decision! First and foremost, you need to make sure the person you choose to be your enduring guardian is someone you trust entirely. This person should clearly understand what your wants and wishes are.

Don't forget, your guardian should also be someone who can easily make decisions and stick to them! And not be swayed by other's opinions. It's important they are always advocating on your behalf. Your guardian shouldn’t be afraid to stand up to your family members, health care providers, or medical staff.

Make sure your guardian can make decisions under circumstances of conflict. They must be able to make rational decisions, even if they have to when you don’t agree with them. For example, if it’s best for your welfare to be in a health care facility, they should make the best decision for you even if you don’t agree.

It’s also a good idea to discuss your choices with your family and friends. Remember, discussing end-of-life issues is never easy, but making your wishes known ahead of time is much easier and less stressful.

Can I Choose More Than One Guardian?

Yes, you can name more than one person as your guardian. But, it's important to note, that choosing more than one person can make decisions more complicated. Make sure you also choose how your guardians need to reach those decisions.

Ways to appoint your guardians to act:

  • Jointly - the guardians must agree on all decisions

  • Severally - the guardians can act separately; only one signature is needed on documents

  • Jointly & Severally - the guardians can make decisions together or independently; all can sign documents, or just one can

It is a good idea to choose an alternate guardian, if you only have one person in place. If your first choice dies, becomes ill, or can’t fulfill their duties, the alternate can take their place.

Decisions Your Enduring Guardian Can Make

When you choose an enduring guardian, they will be responsible for making health care and welfare decisions for you.

Some of those decisions may include:

  • Any wishes you discussed with them, or that are written in your enduring guardian document

  • Acting in your best interests and making sure you are treated with dignity

  • Making sure you are given the freedom to act and make decisions when you are able

  • Considering your wishes before making any choices for you

Setting Conditions on What Decisions Can be Made

If you have any specific conditions or directions your guardian must abide by, you can include those in your enduring guardian document. You can include as many conditions as you want. Or, you can choose not to impose any conditions at all.

Above all, outline your conditions clearly so they can’t be misinterpreted, and make sure your guardian understands them completely. It might be helpful to get medical or legal advice on how to best document your conditions.  

If you haven't yet, create a FREE Forever My LifeJars account to safely store your documents and control who has access and when.

Examples of some conditions you might choose:

  • My guardian must consult with my friend, (friend’s name), on any decisions regarding my health or welfare.

  • If I need to move to a long-term care facility, I would prefer to live close to my (insert family member and name).

  • Because of my religious beliefs, I don’t want to receive any blood transfusions or blood products under any circumstances.
  • Life-prolonging treatments, including CPR, can be used to prolong my life if they are appropriate and in my best interest.
  • I do not want to be kept alive with extraordinary treatments, if there is no chance I will recover.
  • When my guardian takes control, they must tell my attorney what my condition is so my attorney can put my enduring power of attorney into effect. 

Decisions Your Enduring Guardian Can’t Make

Here is a list of decisions your guardian isn’t responsible for:

  • Making a will for you
  • Voting on your behalf
  • Agreeing to marriage
  • Managing your finances
  • Overriding your objections to medical treatment
a woman thinking and making a decision as an enduring guardian

This is Such a Big Decision, What If I Change My Mind?

You may be wondering if you can change your mind after appointing your enduring guardian. Of course you can! You can revoke the powers of your enduring guardian at any time. It’s also possible to change the conditions you put in place or even name a new guardian. 

Keep in mind, though, that you will need to be mentally fit and able to make these changes. This is for your protection. If changes are made, you must also register your changes and pay an additional fee.

Be sure to destroy and delete the file with your old documents, and replace with the latest most up-to-date version.

When Does an Enduring Guardian Term End?

Great question! Even though it has the word enduring in its title, this type of guardianship doesn’t last forever.

Your enduring guardian’s term ends when:

  • You die

  • You revoke it 

  • Your guardian dies, resigns, or is unable to fulfill their duties

  • Your get married, unless you marry your guardian

Filling Out the Forms

It’s important to understand all of the requirements in appointing an enduring guardian. There are free forms available online.

Here at My LifeJars, we always recommend having an attorney review your document or form.. Make sure you complete the entire form. Officially, you are not required to file it anywhere. Of course, you'll need to give copies to your guardian, and any family members you want to have a copy. If you are storing your documents in My LifeJars, you can always control who has access.

Storing Your Vital Documents In One Place

In conclusion, as much as we don’t like to think about dying, it’s important to make sure everything is in order for the family we leave behind. That’s where we step in to help. My LifeJars offers you a safe, secure online place to store everything your family needs when you’re no longer with them. 

Our app is the perfect place to organize and share all of your important documents, like your last will and testament, your advance care directive, your health care proxy, your enduring power of attorney, and your enduring guardian.

We make it simple for you to give access to all the people who will need this information in the future.