Guardianship: No Matter Your Age, Document Your Wishes Now

Robert Turner with documents, Decatur, GA

When the Unexpected Happens

Most people assume wills, a Power of Attorney and a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care are legal documents to be dealt with in middle age or later. People in their twenties rarely have these documents – often because they are too busy living. However, one family found out how critical these documents are when a 22-year-old family member suffered a medical emergency that left her comatose.

In this case, an otherwise healthy young female was completely incapacitated after a catastrophic incident. Someone needed to become her guardian to make decisions about where she would live and how she would be cared for medically. The fact that she did not have a will, Power of Attorney or Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care when she became ill greatly complicated the emotionally-charged decision as to her legal guardianship. To complicate matters, the young woman had a considerable financial trust from her deceased mother, which was controlled by her aunt, to consider as well.

A Complicated, Contested Petition for Legal Guardianship

On the recommendation of his personal attorney, the young woman’s father contacted Robert Turner of Turner Law to petition the court for guardianship of his comatose daughter. However, the young woman’s aunt contested the father’s petition, arguing that she should be named the legal guardian because of her role as executor of the trust.

During the guardianship debate, considerable time and attention was spent determining which local court had jurisdiction over the proceedings. The young woman, a resident of Fulton County, Georgia, had been transferred to an acute care hospital in neighboring DeKalb County, Georgia. During initial proceedings, the court determined that the young woman’s current location, DeKalb County, Georgia, required the legal proceedings to be handled by a court in that county.

This long, arduous and emotionally draining litigation could have potentially been avoided if the young woman had completed a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, the state’s legal document, giving the person of the young woman’s choice as to who would be her guardian, to make, to make health care decisions, and end of life decisions on her behalf.

If the details of this case sound familiar, it’s because they probably are. This case, in which Turner represented the young woman’s father, grabbed national headlines before it was ultimately settled out of court, avoiding a trial. Turner represented Bobby Brown, who was fighting his daughter’s aunt, Pat Houston, to be made the legal guardian for his daughter with Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Ultimately, a sealed settlement decided that Bobby Brown and Pat Houston would share legal guardianship of Bobbi Kristina Brown. Just Prior to the Judge of Dekalb County’s Probate Court coming into office she was appointed to serve as guardian ad litem for Bobbi Kristina Brown during the guardianship case. The guardian ad litem worked with the opposing attorneys in the case representing the rights of Bobbi Kristina.

Bobbi Kristina Brown died in 2015 at age 22, seven months after the medical emergency which left her in a coma.

Document Your Wishes Now to Minimize Conflict Later

No matter what your age, it is vital that your wishes about which medical treatments are acceptable to you and which are not, who will make decisions for you if you are not able to do so, and how your assets will distributed in the event of your death be legally documented. This kind of legal protection can prevent considerable angst for family members who are cast into these decision-making roles with little or no knowledge of your preferences. Taking the time to document this information now will help to eliminate confusion and disagreements when emotions are stressed.

Posted on the behalf of Turner Law, LLC