Guardianship is gigantic. In most states, 45 to 55 percent of people with disabilities live under the care of a guardian. Even more children and older adults live under a guardian’s purview.
Few people know just how many people have guardians. Even fewer know about what guardianship entails.
What is guardianship? How does someone plan for it, and how can someone apply for it? What are the responsibilities that guardians must assume, even without a guardianship agreement?
Answer these questions and you can provide oversight for a child or adult with disabilities in no time. Here is your quick guide.
What Is Guardianship?
Guardianship allows an individual to make personal and financial decisions on someone else’s behalf. The guardian can decide where their ward goes to school, spends their money, and receives healthcare.
Guardianship can be permanent or temporary. It can be limited to certain areas, namely with financial decisions. A guardian may care for a child’s property until they come of age.
You may have heard of the term, “conservatorship.” This is used interchangeably with guardianship.
You may have also heard about custody. Custody applies to a biological parent’s care of a child, while guardianship is for individuals who are not biological parents.
There may be scenarios in which a child lives with a guardian while remaining in their parent’s custody. Both are otherwise very similar, as they involve oversight of wards.
Planning for Guardianship
Anyone with children or oversight over an elderly parent should make a plan for guardianship. Older individuals should also prepare a plan in the event that they are incapacitated.
Parents can write a will that details their requests. They can name someone that they want to appoint as a guardian and state how they want their children taken care of.
They should go to a guardianship attorney for advice. Filing a will takes time and effort, and it is important to go through all legal hurdles.
Older adults should draft a living will that states their preference for end-of-life care. They should specify who they want to have the power of attorney, carrying out legal decisions on their behalf. They can appoint separate individuals for power over financial decisions and medical ones.
In the event that someone does not name a guardian, a court may appoint one. Courts try to look for individuals who are active in the ward’s life. This is often family members, but it can be friends or neighbors.
Their decision may not reflect your desires. The only way to have the guardian of your choice is to file official documents with a guardianship lawyer.
Becoming a Guardian
You must go through the courts in order to become a ward’s guardian. It does not matter if someone wants you to become their guardian or if a parent named you in their will.
You can begin the process by filing a petition with the probate court. There is a petition for temporary guardianship and a separate one for permanent oversight. You must file your petition in the county where the ward lives.
You should attach your photo ID to the petition. If you are looking for permanent guardianship of a minor, you should have their birth certification. If you want guardianship of an adult, you need a statement from a physician indicating that it is necessary.
After the application is filed, you must undergo a background check. People with criminal histories can still become guardians. But they may be asked questions about their past.
You can also expect to fill out information forms. You should give details about how much money you make and how you will care for the child.
Courts will schedule hearings as soon as possible. In scenarios where a ward needs immediate oversight, they can grant emergency guardianship. But you may have to wait months to receive approval.
The hearing involves a judge listening to your claim and corroborating witnesses. If the ward is an older child or a communicative adult, the judge may ask them questions.
A judge may reject someone’s petition. In general, any petition that a ward agrees to will receive approval.
Guardianship for Minors
Guardians have all of the responsibilities that parents have. Temporary guardians must send annual reports to the court reporting on their ward’s progress. They may describe the education and condition of the child through time.
Courts may decide to limit a person’s guardianship to a prescribed time. In some cases, this may be when the child reaches 18. But a court may say that someone has guardianship for a year or three years.
If a ward’s parent is still alive, they maintain some rights. They can object to a temporary guardianship and petition the court to dissolve it.
They have no right to object to permanent guardianship. They must offer financial support regardless of their contact with their child.
Guardianship of Older People
Guardians of adults are limited to whatever areas a court limits them to. They also must follow a series of guidelines.
They must remain in communication with the adult. They must take their words into account, regardless of their mental age or psychological status.
They must file a report with the court four months after their court order. Once that is complete, they file annual reports. They detail how their ward is doing and what their financial picture looks like.
Wards keep all rights that the court does not give to their guardians. They can communicate with whomever they want to talk to. If they want their guardianship ended, they can ask the court to dissolve it.
The Essentials of Guardianship
People have many questions about guardianship. What is guardianship? It allows someone to assume responsibility for someone who needs oversight.
Can someone name a guardian for themselves or their children? Yes, in a will. They should describe how they want themselves or their children to be cared for.
How does someone become a guardian? Through a court petition and with a lawyer’s help.
What are the limitations to guardianship? A guardian must remain in contact with the court and value their ward’s rights.
Get the legal advice you require today. Smith Barid, LLC serves the Savannah area. Contact us today.