When most people hear the legal term “Guardian,” they envision an individual’s control over their finances, their health – over their life! – being seized by some anonymous government bureaucrat. And this is really a shame, because, properly deployed, a legal guardian does just the opposite: the role of a voluntarily chosen a Guardian is to identify your needs, hopes, and priorities and do their utmost to see to it that your life continues to run as consistent to your wishes as possible. Voluntary guardianship provides individuals who, because of age or disability, are likely to experience a decline in their decision-making capacity, a means of enabling an individual exert greater control over their affairs.
Voluntary guardianship can be an immense boon, for example, to older citizens for whom life is becoming increasingly complex and frustrating. Voluntary guardianship can make life less stressful and more predictable. Such guardianships are established through a surprisingly simple, straightforward legal process. An individual who recognizes they need support with their affairs can file for voluntary guardianship (14 V.S.A. § 2671) with the local Probate Division of the Superior Court and choose as their guardian a spouse, family member, friend, or a paid, private guardian. For a voluntary guardianship, one doesn’t need to prove diminished capacity nor secure a court finding demonstrating that one is “in need of guardianship.” To safeguard your rights, the judge will need to be satisfied that you’re requesting guardianship of your own free will and that you understand the nature, extent and consequences of the Voluntary Guardianship.
And a guardianship needn’t be forever. If, at any point in time after the guardianship is established, you wish to terminate it, you can notify the Court to do so. Understand that a guardian can then request that you continue to be under guardianship, but such request will need to go through the more rigorous involuntary guardianship process (14 V.S.A. § 3063).
A Voluntary Guardianship can improve greatly the quality of life for citizens who wish to remove key frustrations from their lives and be as independent as possible as long as possible.
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