Guardianship matters are those that are associated with a legal arrangement in which an adult is made the temporary legal guardian of a person who is incapable of managing his or her own affairs. Depending on the terms of the arrangement, the guardian is endowed by the state with the authority to make important financial, medical, and legal decisions of the incapacitated individual. Guardianship arrangements can be short term (e.g. for the duration of a court trial) or long term if necessary, depending on the situation.
Differing from child custody cases, guardianship involves an adult who needs someone to manage their financial affairs (conservator) because of disability, accident, or dementia, and possibly someone to take care of them physically (guardian). Often, a child with a severe disability needs a conservator and guardian when they turn 18. Oftentimes parents with special needs children don’t realize that they will need to be appointed as a guardian & conservator when the child turns 18. They can start the process 6 months before the child turns 18.
An uncontested guardianship involves:
- An affidavit from the adult’s physician
- The appointment of a guardian ad litem
- A petition to be filed in the court
- A hearing in front of the judge to establish the need
Once the judge enters the order, then the appointed guardian is permitted to qualify in the probate office as the guardian and/or conservator. Thereafter, the guardian and conservator are required to file annual reports with a Commissioner of Accounts.
It's important to note that good estate planning is the key to avoid/reduce both litigation and guardianships (except in the case of a child turning 18). Guardianships and conservatorships for most adults can be avoided by incapacity planning which puts into place vehicles such as powers of attorney, trusts, healthcare powers of attorney, etc. Litigation can be avoided by clear and precise estate planning that contemplates and plans for a long list of contingencies. Other disputes can be avoided by choosing good responsible fiduciaries to act on your behalf.
Our attorneys can help you obtain guardianship to ensure their well-being and safety. Guardianship provides a clear legal ruling on the terms of care for an individual which gives the guardian the ability to make important decisions in a timely manner, thus allowing for more sufficient and responsible care.
The guardianship process can be difficult and it is our goal to assist you through the legal steps to ensure that your loved ones are legally protected financially and physically.
If you or a loved one is interested in attaining guardianship of a loved one or wants to transfer guardianship to someone else, schedule a consultation with Caryn West, who handles guardianship matters at Parks Ziegler. Call 888-691-9319 or fill out this short form to get started.