What Is Guardianship?
Guardianship involves gaining legal authority to make decisions for another person, such as a minor or an adult unable to care for him or herself. Courts appoint a guardian, with the help of a guardianship lawyer, to make legal decisions on another’s behalf. The individual placed under a guardian’s care is known as the “protected person.”
When Should You Seek Guardianship?
Several scenarios could require someone to have a legal guardian. While this is often for the individual’s safety and well-being, guardianship could also serve as a method to ensure that those without caretakers are properly attended to. This means the management of finances, property, and similar affairs of someone incapable of making informed decisions on her or his own.
Those who need proper guardianship could be of any age and are not limited to those under 18 years old.
The designation of a guardian classifies the other party as a ‘ward’. This means many of the protected person’s rights are removed. This decision is not made lightly and requires careful deliberation to determine the best course of action. A reputable guardianship lawyer ensures you navigate the legal process correctly.
In general, children are the most common individuals who may need a guardian. This is often because the child lives in unsafe conditions, experiences the death of one or both parents, etc.
In some scenarios, an older sibling may become a guardian for a child to help her or him manage affairs such as school registration and insurance coverage. A guardianship lawyer helps build a solid case to prove to a judge your concern and reliability regarding the individual in question.
Note that while you may be a suitable guardian for the child, other parties may take priority. For example, a minor who lives in an abusive home may relocate to live with her or his grandparents as opposed to having a family friend serve as guardian.
Under the right circumstances, though, someone unrelated to the person in question can become a guardian if the unrelated party can prove her or his reliability and familiarity with the party in need of guardianship. For instance, the potential guardian may have already established a long-term relationship with the person in question.
As people age, they often become unable to care for themselves. Injuries and medical conditions are the main culprits that limit one’s ability to perform basic tasks alone comfortably, like bathing and eating.
A prime example is someone seeking legal guardianship of an elderly parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the parent cannot efficiently function on his or her own, a trustworthy elder guardian must help her or him manage finances, pay bills and sign documents.
As previously mentioned, seeking guardianship of an adult is not limited to a specific age. Individuals over the age of 18 with mental disorders (such as autism) may find themselves notably limited in their ability to care for themselves. It is not uncommon for a friend or sibling in these cases to pursue guardianship.
What Responsibilities Does Guardianship Come With?
A legal guardian’s exact obligations vary from case to case. However, you need to be aware of a few key responsibilities.
Regardless of what role you play as a guardian, legally, you must act in the individual in question’s best interest. In most cases, you have complete control over the individual’s life and can make legal decisions on her or his behalf.
Also known as a ‘fiduciary duty,’ many appointed legal guardians help properly manage finances. While this is most commonly seen with elderly individuals, it can also involve adults with mental disabilities.
A unique scenario where this may apply could involve a man with a mental disability who recently received an inheritance. His legal guardian becomes responsible for properly managing these finances and adhering to any accompanying terms or requests. They may also have to meet any special needs.
But this role could be something as simple as helping an aging parent make bill payments and keep retirement finances in order.
Safety & Welfare
Guardianship also often involves maintaining the protected person’s safety and welfare. The person you bear responsibility for no longer has legal rights. Therefore, you may have to provide her or him with shelter and basic necessities.
Once again, this applies to people of any age, but this situation most commonly involves minors. The more attention an individual’s situation needs, the more responsibilities you have.
Note, though, that you do not always have to provide safety and welfare in addition to financial management. For example, an elderly person who lives in a retirement home receives care from the facility. But they may still need a legal guardian to help with financial obligations.
When Should I Hire a Guardianship Lawyer?
Before seeking guardianship of a loved one, get in touch with a professional who specializes in this area of law. A legal advocate can provide you with all the necessary information. This typically includes:
- How to convey your reliability as a guardian
- How to prove the individual in question needs to have a guardian
- Handling the necessary legal proceedings
As long as you qualify to serve as a legal guardian in the scenario’s context, you have a high chance of success when you petition the court to secure guardianship. But, even if you gather evidence on your own, you still need a guardianship attorney’s help to receive full consideration.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Not only can reputable attorneys help you prepare your case, but they can also recognize and help you to overcome obstacles common to guardianship cases.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!