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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Guardianship disputes can sometimes involve more than property

Minnesota residents understand that it is not uncommon for people to get into disputes. Whether it is between a friend, a colleague or a family member, their disagreements could range from a small tiff to a major uproar. In some cases, arguments often involve disputes about a person's property. Unfortunately, it does happen from time to time that family members get involved in will contests or other probate litigation after a person has died and left behind property.

At other points, disputes can emerge during a Minnesota guardianship if family members believe that the guardian or conservator is not managing property appropriately. However, guardianships many times involve a lot more than managing a person's financial affairs.

As a case in point, an Amish family in another state took the drastic step recently by fleeing their home with their daughter who is struggling to overcome cancer. The family fled after a hospital successfully filed for a guardianship over the girl who is a minor and is by law considered unable to make her own medical and financial decisions.

The hospital filed this guardianship after the families opted to stop chemotherapy because they felt it was not healthy for their daughter. The parents, however, have elected instead to rely on alternative medicine. The court-appointed guardian, who wants to continue the conventional treatment, says that without the chemotherapy, the girl will probably die. On the other hand, the conventional medicine has a good chance of saving the girl. The probate judge overseeing the case sided with the parents, only to be overturned by the state's court of appeals. At issue is the constitutional right of the parent's to make medical decisions on behalf of their daughter, even if those decisions go against more prevalent practices.

This story illustrates that in Minnesota, sometimes disputes over a guardianship can involve much more than a person's property or inheritance. Many times, the sorts of decisions guardians make can affect or even end the life of another person - and not just children. Guardianships can come into play for adults as well, where they are no longer able to make important decisions on their own behalf. In these sorts of cases, it may be even more important for family members to take advantage of the wisdom and experience of a seasoned probate attorney.

Source: Forbes, "Could you lose the right to make medical decisions for your child?" Jan. 27, 2014

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