Alternatives to Guardianship
Fortunately, there are certain procedures that one can implement prior to irreversible incapacity so as to avoid the need for a guardianship or conservatorship. These procedural vehicles are loosely termed alternatives to guardianship, and include 1) a Power of Attorney, and 2) an Advance Health Care Directive.
A Power of Attorney is executed so that the person can designate and empower an agent to conduct their business affairs in the event of incapacity.
Similarly, an Advanced Health Care Directive (known variously in other jurisdictions as a "Health Care Directive," or a "Healthcare Power of Attorney," or a "Living Will") grants authority to an agent to make healthcare decisions in the event of incapacity.
Both the Power of Attorney and the Advance Health Care Directive are invaluable tools, and when used properly can obviate the need for a costly, full-blown Guardianship and Conservatorship proceedings. Unfortunately, in the absence of these simple estate planning documents, there is really no alternative to Guardianship and Conservatorship to protect incapacitated persons.