A guardianship agreement is a document that details the terms of a guardianship between a court-appointed legal guardian and a ward. A legal guardian has the court-appointed right to make financial and personal decisions on behalf of the ward in accordance with the terms of the guardianship agreement.

A ward is typically a child, but can also be an incompetent or incapacitated adult, such as an elderly or physically or mentally disabled individual. In most cases, a guardianship agreement is used by a parent to transfer legal responsibility of their child to another family member, such as a grandparent or sibling, in the event that the parent is no longer able to care for the child.

A guardianship agreement may be included as part of a will or trust, or it may be a stand-alone document.

When Can a Guardianship Agreement be Reversed?

Guardianship agreements can be reversed or revoked in certain situations. The ward, the guardian, or a concerned third party may petition the court to have the agreement reversed. Only the court has the power to terminate a guardianship agreement, and will generally do so if reversing the agreement is in the best interests of the ward. In some cases, a guardianship agreement may terminate on its own, without the need to petition the court for a reversal.     

In cases where the ward is an adult, they may petition the court themselves for a reversal of the guardianship agreement. A ward may feel that they no longer need a guardian, especially when they can make their own financial and personal decisions.

An adult ward may also request the reversal of an agreement if they feel that the guardian is not correctly performing their duties under the agreement. This situation arises when a guardian exercises too much control over the ward, neglects the ward, or when there is a suspicion that the guardian is abusive, or taking advantage of the ward financially.  

If the ward is a child, a third party, such as a family member of the child, may petition the court to have the guardianship agreement reversed. In these cases, the guardian may not fulfill the caretaking needs of the child. Neglect and abuse can also be reasons that a guardianship agreement involving a child is reversed. If the child is old enough, generally in their mid to late teens, they may petition the court themselves to have the guardianship agreement terminated.

A guardian may seek approval from the court to reverse the guardianship agreement if they are no longer able or willing to perform the duties involved with the caretaking of the ward. In these situations, a guardian may relocate, determine that they no longer want to work with the ward, or face situations prevent them from fulfilling their obligations under the agreement.   

In some cases, a guardianship agreement may terminate on its own, without the need to petition the court for a reversal. This is common in situations when a temporary guardianship agreement details the dates that the guardianship is in effect.

How Does the Court Decide Whether or Not to Reverse a Guardianship Agreement?

The court that appointed the legal guardian has the decision making power to terminate a guardianship agreement. The court will hold a hearing to determine whether a guardian is no longer fit to perform the duties of the agreement, or whether the ward no longer needs the help of guardian to make personal or financial decisions. When reversing a guardianship agreement, the court will also decide if a new guardian should be appointed to care for the ward under a new guardianship agreement.

Judges are generally given discretion in deciding when to reverse a guardianship agreement. Because each case is different, the judge will gather evidence from the ward, the guardian, and any interested third parties when making their decision. The judge may ask for proof that a ward is capable of handling their own affairs, or evidence that a guardian is failing to fulfill their duties.

Some states have specific reasons for when the reversal of a guardianship agreement is appropriate. A common cause for reversal is when removing or changing the guardian is in the best interests of the ward.

Guardianship agreements may also be reversed if the guardian is convicted of a crime, refuses to follow court orders, commits fraud, charges inappropriate guardianship fees, or improperly handles the ward’s finances and assets.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Reverse a Guardianship Agreement?

While you may be able to petition the court to reverse a guardianship agreement on your own, navigating the court system is challenging. It’s in your best interests to consult with a family law attorney for help. An attorney will know how to petition the court and will help ensure that a guardianship agreement reversal is proper in your situation.