Readers in Palm Beach Gardens may be interested in a recent court ruling touching on the issue of guardianship where Alzheimer’s disease may be a factor. While the court decision comes from Guam and has no formal legal precedent in the United States, its reasoning may be of some import to judges in this country considering similar issues. A wealthy husband and wife in Guam were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. The husband has since died, though the wife remains alive. Two of the couple’s four children were named guardians of the person of the mother and also appointed guardians of the father’s estate.

In that capacity, the brother and sister transferred to the two of them Time Certificate of Deposit funds valued at upwards of $1.5 million, which constituted almost 95 percent of the deceased father’s retirement funds. Another brother, coincidentally estranged from the parents since at least 1972, objected to the transfer. The lower court in Guam found no “ill or deceitful motives” on the part of the guardians, but nevertheless ordered the return of the CD because the transfers were said to be inconsistent with the late father’s business practices. That and other rulings were appealed to Guam’s highest court, where its Supreme Court upheld the lower court on that point, though noted the estranged sibling who complained “failed to mention” his estrangement in court papers.

Guardianships are important appointments and come with a fiduciary duty to act in good faith to care for and manage property or money, and even designated persons when appropriate. It remains to be seen what the ultimate disposition of the estate dispute will be. However, the Guam Supreme Court appears to have placed some limit on the extent of the authority of guardians to act in similar circumstances.

Alzheimer’s is a pernicious disease and its onset often creates a host of financial and care issues. In Florida, the issues are best dealt with early on and an estate planning attorney may offer some sage advice as well as map out a plan for the protection of assets and care of the persons affected. In those situations where the individual affected with the disease is not longer capable of making meaningful financial decisions, the lawyer can assist in requesting all necessary relief from a court to provide for the person and guard their property.