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What Is a Guardianship? Are There Different Types of Guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal role typically appointed by the probate court. This relationship grants a person, typically referred to as a legal guardian, the legal ability to make personal, medical, and financial decisions on behalf of another person. This person is referred to as a ward.

In most guardianship situations, the ward is a child or an individual with severe mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from being able to make decisions on their own behalf. In some states, a guardianship may be referred to as a conservatorship.

There are different types of guardianship relationships which may be ordered by a court, based on the needs of the ward. Some guardianships grant the guardian full decision making powers over the ward, while others limit the guardian to only making financial or legal decisions. The different types of guardianships vary by state, but some examples of the most common types of guardianships include:  

  • Full Guardianships: These guardianships grant the guardian full decision making powers over the ward in cases in which the ward is unable to make any personal, financial, or healthcare decisions;
  • Limited Guardianships: These guardianships are granted by the court when the ward is capable of making some of their own decisions about their personal care, but need assistance from a guardian in making more complex decisions related to finances, healthcare, or life changes;
  • Co-guardianships: These guardianships are granted when the court appoints two guardians to make decisions on behalf of one ward. Doing so helps to prevent any abuse of power by one of the guardians;
  • Short-Term or Temporary Guardianships: The court may grant a temporary guardianship when the ward is facing an emergency situation, or is temporarily unable to make decisions on their own behalf;
  • Guardianship of an Estate: The guardian is primarily tasked with overseeing, managing, and making financial decisions on behalf of the ward; and
  • Guardian Ad Litem: A guardian is appointed by the court to represent the ward’s interests in legal proceedings.

What Branch of Law Covers Guardianships?

When looking for a guardianship attorney, you should first understand that guardianships are considered to be part of the family law umbrella. Family law is a branch of the legal field that handles  issues relating to familial relationships. Divorce, child custody, and child support are the most well-known subjects of family law. However, several other issues fall under the umbrella, such as:

  • Paternity;
  • Adoption;
  • Disability law;
  • Emancipation; and
  • Guardianship.

Some attorneys who practice family law also specialize in one particular issue. An example of this would be how one attorney may focus on adoption cases, whereas another may have a practice that focuses on child support issues. Generally speaking, most family law attorneys practice the spectrum of legal matters associated with family relationships.

What Does a Guardianship Attorney Do?

A guardianship lawyer will advise you regarding the specific type of legal and welfare decisions you may make as a ward’s legal guardian. They can provide guidance with all legal paperwork, as well as ensure you understand your legal rights and obligations.

To establish legal guardianship, the process begins with a court filing. The potential guardian must file a petition with the court, indicating their intent to obtain guardianship of the ward. Once the petition has been filed, there will be a hearing in court in order to determine whether guardianship is appropriate. Most importantly, it will be determined whether the guardianship relationship will be in the best interests of the child.

If you are applying for guardianship, you will need to gather evidence to present to the court to help in the decision. A guardianship attorney can help in all aspects of the process, including determining what sort of evidence will best help your case. They can ensure that the legal process for obtaining guardianship will be both legal and correct.

Do I Need a Guardianship Attorney?

If you are seeking to be appointed as guardian of a ward, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable family lawyer as soon as possible. Additionally, you may consider hiring a child custody lawyer. Either attorney can determine the best path forward when considering your specific legal issues and circumstances. An experienced and local attorney can ensure that the aforementioned legal process goes as smoothly as possible. An experienced and local guardianship lawyer will also be able to represent you in court as needed.

The best way to connect with a guardianship attorney is by utilizing LegalMatch. LegalMatch connects potential clients with qualified attorneys, who have all been pre screened and are bar certified. You will provide some basic information about your legal issues, and any matching attorneys will contact you within 24 hours. The service is free to use, and can simplify a sometimes complex process.

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