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Our guide to welfare and financial guardianships in Scotland

Most of us have heard of welfare and financial guardianships but might not be sure exactly what this means or what it entails. If an adult has an incapacity such as a lifelong condition due to disability or illness then another adult can seek guardianship of them. This can be to help with ongoing tasks that they are not capable of such as paying bills, dealing with bank accounts and carrying out decisions about care and personal welfare issues. In short, guardianships are granted to handle property, financial matters and/or personal welfare that a person over 16 cannot do themselves.  If you are undergoing the process of applying for guardianship it is advisable to seek a qualified solicitor in order to guide you through the application and legal processes. Keep reading to find out all you need to know to get started.

Who can be a guardian?

An important question in terms of guardianships is who exactly qualifies to become a guardian. A guardian will only be appointed if the adult in question cannot appoint Power of Attorney (POA) themselves. In most cases, the guardian will be family or a friend who will therefore need some sort of legal authority to act on the person’s behalf and with their best interests at the forefront. In terms of a welfare guardianship, the individual can be anyone but if there is no close contact willing to do it and the guardianship is needed, a chief social work officer in the local council can apply for the responsibility. When it comes to financial guardianship again there are no specific requirements and a qualified solicitor or accountant can take on the duty if family or friends cannot. Once appointed, the guardianship will normally last for 3 years but can be longer if needed. Guardianships are supervised by the local council which must ensure that the adult is being appropriately cared for and not taken advantage of, this can be an unfortunate result of some guardianships.

How do I make an application?

The process of applying to and securing a welfare or financial guardianship can be very lengthy so you must consider if this is the right choice for the adult and yourself. A guardianship is suitable when the individual needs decisions to be made on their behalf quite regularly and for a long period of time. If you are unsure that the process is appropriate for you and/or the adult with incapacity you can seek legal advice to make your decision and help with your application. As mentioned, the application itself can be a long and complex journey so most people use the services of a solicitor to help them. This will ensure you are up to date with any legal changes and understand the jargon used. Your application must be supported by two medical reports and another report depending on the type of guardianship you are seeking. It is quite common to seek a combination of both welfare and financial powers and for welfare powers, a mental health officer must also complete a report to access the adult. Of course, if you are granted guardianship, you will likely have responsibilities to carry out regularly and even so much as daily in some cases. Financial guardianships have certain additional duties such as completing administrative duties so make sure to carefully consider whether you have the time and ability to commit to the duties and responsibilities.

Does it cost money to be a guardian?

Once your guardianship application has been approved it is unlikely that you will have to spend any sort of money aside from perhaps travelling to look after the adult in question. However, there are costs associated with the application process and these can vary depending on the costs of your solicitor if you use one and fees for medical reports. There will also be court fees to apply and register the order. The adult may be eligible for legal aid through the Scottish Legal Aid Board. The grant depends on the adult in question’s income and assets as opposed to the potential guardian’s finances.

For more in depth information on different types of guardianships, the costs associated with them and how to apply, get in touch with the team.