South Bend / Mishawaka, IN – Some individuals are faced with a time when a loved one is no longer able to make their own financial and personal decisions. In this situation, a guardian may be appointed by the court to help manage the individual’s affairs. The guardian then owes a duty to the individual to act responsibly when making financial decisions. A question then arises regarding what expenses are proper for a guardian to make. In Indiana, one expense a guardian may make is for the care of the spouse of the individual placed under a guardianship.
Many aging couples have been in marriages that have lasted decades long. Throughout the decades one spouse may have developed the task of being the sole manager of the financial affairs for the two and may even have the accounts in their sole name. Situations have arisen where the spouse that was responsible for financial matters developed dementia and subsequently began making irrational decisions. For instance, one individual in his 80’s hired a “personal secretary”, pushed his spouse of nearly sixty years out of all bank accounts, and refused to continue to pay for her healthcare in a nursing facility. Actions such as these can seriously jeopardize the now penniless spouse’s health and well-being as they may have been entirely dependent on the other spouse’s acumen.
In a situation like this a guardian once installed by the court may assist the family with the needs of the protected person’s spouse. The guardian has a duty to properly manage the affairs of the protected person, in some circumstances this may include using the estate assets to pay for the “necessities” of their spouse. This fact is known as the doctrine of necessities and it allows the guardian to provide for expenses that are essential to the recipient’s sustenance; it includes food, shelter, and healthcare. Because of this doctrine, it may not matter if the funds are held jointly by the couple as a marital asset or individually by the spouse under the guardianship.
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