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Setting Up a Guardianship

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By Fate Kersey
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When a family member becomes unable to provide for their personal or property needs, a court can appoint a guardian.

There are some important considerations to make before pursuing a guardianship, such as whether your family supports the petition and if you have the time, energy and resources available to take on this responsibility.

Filing the Petition

The first step in setting up a guardianship is to file a petition. This document starts the court case and identifies you as the petitioner, any person who wants to be a co-guardian with you, the child over whom you want to be a guardian, and why this is necessary.

Once the documents are filed, the judge will schedule a hearing. This is where the judge receives reports from 3 professionals and hears testimony from all parties.

After the hearing, a judge will decide whether or not to appoint a guardian/conservator. This depends on how the judge feels about the evidence and how the judge sees the alleged incapacitated person’s situation.

When a guardian is appointed, he or she will take over all of the responsibilities of the person who is now being declared incompetent. They will make healthcare decisions on the ward’s behalf, manage their property, and be in charge of legal matters.

Preparing for a Hearing

Preparing for a hearing can be a stressful experience. But if you do it right, you can make the process go smoothly and help ensure that your rights are protected.

To prepare, you should review the court’s rules and instructions to the parties. Also, create an outline of your argument and evidence that you will use in court. You can put this outline in a binder and refer to it when needed.

Your outline should include all of the main issues you will argue about at the hearing, along with evidence that supports each issue. Keeping a list of your key arguments will keep you focused on what matters most to the court.

Ideally, you should meet with an attorney before the hearing to discuss your options and run through your case. However, you may choose to represent yourself if you have no legal representation or cannot afford an attorney.

Filing Additional Documents

The court will appoint a guardian to care for the individual, known as a ward. This person must regularly visit the ward, attend to their needs, and protect them from harm.

In some cases, the court may also appoint a conservator to handle the ward’s finances. This person will invest the ward’s assets and pay for things like insurance, rent, and spending money.

If the person’s disability is severe enough, they may need more than one type of guardian. For example, if they are in a coma or have dementia, a court might appoint a guardian for their healthcare and a conservator for their financial decisions.

Once you have filed the petition, you will need to “serve” a copy of it on the person you are seeking to be a guardian. This means handing the papers to them or delivering them in person to them.

Attending a Hearing

During the hearing, you will give evidence and your attorney will argue for or against your guardianship petition. You should be prepared and arrive early to allow enough time for all of the proceedings.

You can attend a hearing in person, remotely or in some combination of the two. You will need to bring an adult with you who is not the child’s parent.

A legal guardian is someone who is responsible for taking care of a dependent, such as a child or adult, when the parent is no longer able to do so. They can be anyone – friends, family members, or even strangers – but they must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind and body.

In determining a guardian, you should consider their personal qualities, such as how well they would care for your children and whether they have a good work and living situation. It’s also a good idea to choose several backup guardians so that if your first choice doesn’t work out, you have other options.

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