Educational Videos on Alabama Guardianships and Conservatorships

Guardianships for Adults

This is the story of Brianna Watts and her father, Melvin Watts.  Brianna was born with a severe form on cerebral palsy.  Melvin became her court-appointed legal guardian when Brianna was 20 years old.  A guardianship is for adults who need someone else to make life decisions for them.

Supported Decision-Making

This is the story of Colby Spangler, his mother Kim Spangler, and Colby’s supporters.  Colby was born with cerebral palsy.  He has been able to rely on a system of supported decision-making instead of having a court-appointed guardian.  Supported decision-making is a legal and social concept in which an individual remains at the center for the decision-making process, consulting with a network of supporters.

Video Series Introduction (Read transcript)

Video 1 - Guardianship and Conservatorship Basics
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Video 1 introduces the fundamental concepts of guardianship and conservatorship.  It answers the question: “What is a guardianship and conservatorship?”  The terms “guardianship” and “conservatorship” are defined and distinguished.  Guardianship/conservatorship as a court intervention, protective proceeding, and oversight of an incapacitated person’s affairs is emphasized.  The responsibilities guardians and conservators have to the court, and to the incapacitated person, are outlined.  The rights of individuals under guardianship are described, with examples of personal rights removed when a person is declared legally incapacitated.

Video 2 - Capacity to Make Decisions
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Video 2 emphasizes an individual’s ability to make decisions as a foundational principle before considering guardianship or conservatorship.  It answers the question: “What does it take for a person to make a decision?”  The capacity to make decisions is different from person to person, and a one-size-fits-all approach (as examples, adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or an intellectual disability) risks unnecessary limitations on individual autonomy.  The legal and practical aspects of informed consent are discussed.  The supported decision-making concept is explained, and other less-restrictive alternatives are introduced.

Video 3 - Planning Ahead to Avoid Guardianship
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Video 3 focuses on advance planning as a way to maintain control and preserve independence in decision-making.  It answers the question: “What can I do now in case I need help with making decisions or handling money?”  Heavy emphasis is placed on naming a trusted person as a surrogate and the characteristics of that person.  Four advance planning strategies are described: medical and financial powers of attorney, living wills, trusts (living trusts and Special Needs Trusts), and Social Security representative payees.  Seeking legal advice is encouraged with references to lawyer referral and pro bono legal assistance services.

Video 4 - Powers of Attorney
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Video 4 explores powers of attorney in more depth.  Properly executed powers of attorney are beneficial advance planning documents.  They also come with some risks, especially when giving someone else the authority to act with your money and property.  And, what if the person signing a power of attorney has some diminished mental capacity?  The legal capacity required to make a power of attorney is discussed in this video.  And, four tips on how to benefit from a power of attorney while reducing the risk of exploitation are provided.

Video 5 - Decision-Making for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
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Video 5 addresses particular issues and explores alternatives for adults with intellectual disabilities.  It answers the question: “Does an adult with intellectual disabilities need a legal guardian?”  A common question among parents is whether they need to petition for guardianship of their child after the child turns 19 years old.  Another typical scenario involves a sibling who is in the caregiver role for a brother or sister after a parent has deceased.  This video examines the options available in those circumstances, focusing on the person’s decisional abilities.  If guardianship is needed, Alabama probate law provides a special process for parents/siblings of adults with intellectual disabilities.

Video 6 - Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation
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Video 6 provides an overview of adult abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation and ways to seek protection for a vulnerable adult.  It answers the question: “What can be done to protect an adult from being abused, neglected, or financially exploited?”  The most common signs of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation are provided.  Then, five protective measures are discussed: 1) calling 911, 2) reporting to the appropriate state agency, 3) filing for a civil Elder Abuse Protection Order, 4) petitioning for emergency guardianship, and 5) petitioning for permanent guardianship or conservatorship.

Video 7 - The Court Process to Appoint a Guardian or Conservator
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Video 7 describes Alabama’s probate court procedure for appointing a guardian or conservator for an adult.  It answers the question: “How do I become an adult’s legal guardian or conservator in Alabama?”  First, the definition of “incapacitated person” as required for appointment of a guardian or conservator is provided.  Assessment of the person’s functional impairments and abilities will be emphasized.  Then, the basic steps in the court process are outlined: petitioning, required notices, court appointments, hearing, qualifications and appointment of guardian/conservator, and fees/expenses.

Video 8 - Responsibilities of the Guardian
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Video 8 explains the roles and duties of a guardian.  It answers the question: “What are my responsibilities as guardian for an adult?”  To start, guardians look to the court and its orders to determine what decisions they are responsible for making for the adult.  A guardian’s general authority under Alabama law is described.  The guardian’s role in monitoring and promoting the person’s well-being, protecting the person from harm, and utilizing least-restrictive alternatives is emphasized.  The “substituted judgment” and “best interest” standards for making decisions are discussed.

Video 9 - Responsibilities of the Conservator
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Video 9 explains the roles and duties of a conservator.  It answers the question: “What are my responsibilities as conservator of an adult’s money and property?”  To start, conservators look to the court and its orders to determine what financial decisions they are authorized to make.  A conservator’s general authority under Alabama law is described.  And, the conservator’s duty to obtain prior court approval for some transactions, for example to sell real estate, is emphasized.  The “prudent person” standard for dealing with the adult’s money and property is discussed.  Finally, the four basic duties of a conservator are outlined.

Video 10 - Modifying/Concluding a Guardianship or Conservatorship
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Video 10 examines the ways a guardianship or conservatorship can be modified.  It answers a two-part question: “When does a guardianship or conservatorship end and how can changes be made?”  The following circumstances are explored: 1) the incapacitated person regains the ability to manage his or her own affairs allowing for a termination or limitation of the guardianship, 2) appropriate alternatives to guardianship have become available, 3) the guardian/conservator resigns or is removed, and 4) the incapacitated person dies.