Can our family revoke guardianship of my uncle from his separate wife?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Marge1200 asked...

My uncle had an aneurysm about two months ago. He and his wife were seperated for about two years and he kept putting off the process of a divorce out of procastination. Well he fell into a coma and is making progress of opening his eyes and moving his hands and feet. He is breathing on his own and is making progress but at a slow rate. His wife decided that it would be best to let him go and moved him to hospice without any of our knowledge. Do my aunt and mom have any rights to revoke guardianship from this woman?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It sounds hurtful that your uncle's wife took this action without informing your aunt and mom. But whether they can or should take any additional action about it depends on a few other fact.

If your uncle completed documents such as an advance directive or power of attorney for healthcare that indicated the kind of medical care he would want to receive, then those documents control.

If your uncle's wife has a true legal guardianship over him"”that is, a court has formally appointed her to act on his behalf"”then she can be removed or replaced by the same court who appointed her. But that requires some strong proof that she is acting contrary to his best interests.

If your uncle's wife does not have legal guardianship over your uncle, then your aunt and mom may be able to petition a local court"”usually the local probate court"”to appoint one of them as his guardian. This step, too, requires strong proof that your uncle is not able to make his own decisions and that the care he is currently receiving is not in his own best interests.

The reason I'm a bit lukewarm on both of these option is there is that you might want to consider that the care your uncle is now receiving is best for him. Hospice providers are generally wonderfully trained, and studies show that patients in hospice tend to live longer and more painfree than those who receive conventional medical care in a hospital.

While many people don't like the sound of the word hospice and equate it with "giving up," the truth is that if your uncle recovers sufficiently, the care will simply end. If you, your aunt and your mom are able to visit your uncle, this may be the most meaningful medicine for all concerned. It would also be the best way for you to be able to assess whether the care is fitting or not.