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What Is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a court supervised legal relationship established for the benefit and protection of another, called the "ward." Guardianships are generally for children whose parents can no longer take care of them, or for persons over eighteen years old who are declared mentally or physically incapacitated.
Types of Guardianships
- Limited guardianship - Depending on the subject matter, some wards can make responsible and informed decisions. For decisions where the individual may be unable to exercise sound judgment, a court will sometimes appoint a limited guardian to assist in the decision-making process.
- Co-guardianship - Co-guardianship is when two guardians are appointed to protect the best interests of the ward. This often serves as added protection over the ward's interests by ensuring that neither guardian is able to abuse their powers.
- Guardian of property - A guardian of property is primarily concerned with providing or managing sufficient monetary resources to care for the ward.
- Guardian ad litem - A guardian ad litem is appointed by the Court to protect and manage the ward's interests in any legal proceedings that directly affect them.
When Does a Guardianship End?
A guardianship ordinarily lasts until one of these events occurs:
- The child reaches legal age (usually 18 years old)
- The ward dies
- The ward's assets are used up (if the guardianship was set up solely for the purpose of handling the ward's finances), or
- A judge determines that a guardianship is no longer necessary
What Is a Conservatorship?
A conservator (called a "guardian of property", "custodian" or "curator" in some states) is someone who has the court-ordered authority and responsibility to manage another adult's finances. Most often, conservatorships are established for people who are in comas, suffer from advanced Alzheimer's disease or have other serious illnesses or injuries. Conservators are subject to court supervision, which provides a powerful safeguard for an incapacitated adult's property.
The Process for Obtaining a Guardianship or Conservatorship
- Anyone interested in the well being of the incapacitated person can initiate the guardianship or conservatorship process.
- An attorney must petition for a hearing in the probate court of the ward's county of residence.
- Some states require notice of the proceedings.
- The ward is usually entitled to legal representation at the hearing. The court can appoint an attorney if the ward cannot afford one.
Who can Serve as a Guardian or Conservator?
To determine who can be a guardian or conservator the court will look at factors such as:
- Who plays a significant role in the ward's life.
- Who is sensitive to the needs and preferences of the ward.
- Whether the ward's family supports the court's choice.
Do I Need a Family Lawyer?
An attorney is usually necessary in order to petition a court for the establishment of a guardianship or conservatorship. Speaking with an experienced family lawyer will enable you to understand the complicated legal procure and help to protect the best interests of all those affected.
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Last Modified: 01-19-2015 09:41 AM PST
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