Earlier this month we celebrated the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Almost half a century ago, as the whole world watched, Neil Armstrong took “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” and Buzz Aldrin followed right behind him. It’s a feat that continues to inspire us, and which made Armstrong and Aldrin national heroes.

Aldrin has been in the news again recently, but it unfortunately has nothing to do with space exploration. The 88 year old recently sued his two youngest children, Andy and Janice Aldrin, and his longtime manager, Christina Korp. The suit alleges that Andy and Korp have taken control of his “personal credit cards, bank accounts, trust money, space memorabilia, space artifacts, social-media accounts, and all elements of the Buzz Aldrin brand.” And that Andy, Janice, and Korp have “forbidden” him from marrying and “specifically and deliberately have undermined, bullied, and defamed all of [his] personal romantic relationships.” He also alleges that Andy and Korp have slandered him by telling others that he has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The suit was filed in response to Andy and Janice’s attempt to get a Florida state court to appoint them as their father’s co-guardians. They claim he is in cognitive decline, and is often paranoid and confused.

This is a sad situation, but it is not unusual. Many families have disputes among themselves when it is perceived that an older relative’s health is failing. Our firm has represented numerous people who, like Buzz, are fighting against being placed under guardianship, but we also help family members seek guardianships.

Guardianships get a bad rap because their imposition can be contentious, but at their core they are meant to be a good thing. Placing someone under guardianship ensures that someone who can no longer take care of his or her self or his or her own property is protected. The court-appointed guardian is tasked with acting in the best interest of the person in his or her care. The courts provide oversight, and ensure that people being placed under guardianship are not being taken advantage of.

Going to court to get a guardianship order takes a fair amount of time and money, and it some families causes a lot of strife, so it is a good idea to plan ahead for incapacitation by executing a power of attorney document rather than relying on the guardianship process.

A power of attorney document allows it creator to specify who he or she wants to take control if he or she should become incapacitated. The document can specify under what circumstances the power of attorney is to spring into place, and provide some guidance on how decisions should be made by the person given power of attorney. Crafting a power of attorney document gives the person who created it much more control over his or her own destiny than a court-ordered guardianship does.

Nobody likes to think about growing older and not being able to take care of one’s self. And nobody likes to watch their loved ones reach that point. But it does happen, and it often causes a lot of heartache. The best way to prepare for it, and to protect yourself and your loved ones is to plan ahead by creating power of attorney documents. If that isn’t done, and your family ends up fighting over a guardianship, the best thing you can do is seek legal advice from an experienced elder law attorney.