What Is Guardianship?

What Is Guardianship?

When a child or an incapacitated person is deemed unable to care for their own well being due to age, mental illness, disability, or other circumstances, a guardian may be granted the legal authority to make choices for the protected person and safeguard their interests. This can include making decisions about their finances, as well as their physical care. A guardianship can be full or partial depending on the needs of the child or incapacitated person, who is known as a ward. In Texas, the court is supposed to consider each situation and design the least restrictive guardianship necessary to protect the ward while still granting them as much autonomy as possible. Unfortunately, at times disabled individuals end up with full guardianships that strip them of their ability to make important decisions about their lives.

 What Steps Need to Be Taken Before a Guardianship Is Granted?

A medical report must be obtained which states that the proposed ward would benefit from a guardianship, and whether the availability of certain supports and services would allow them to live under a less restrictive guardianship. The report may recommend which powers and duties of the guardian could be limited if the proposed ward received additional help from other services. Once this report has been presented to the court along with an application for guardianship, a court investigator will research whether there are less restrictive options to guardianship which may be more appropriate. If the investigator determines that guardianship is the best option, then the application will proceed. 

 What Are Some Alternatives to Guardianship?  

While there are times when full guardianship is the best option for the individual involved, it is important to explore less restrictive alternatives when possible. Some options provide financial safeguards for the ward without restricting their personal choices, while others provide them with systems of support and guidance for making important decisions. These alternatives may include placing assets into a trust for management purposes or granting a trusted individual power of attorney over the estate. Texas was also the first state to recognize supported decision-making documents as an alternative to guardianship in 2015. Supported decision-making allows an individual to retain more control over their lives, such as deciding where to live, whether to marry, where to work, and other usual adult choices, while providing them with the formal and informal resources and support they require to meet their needs and help them make beneficial decisions.

How Can a Lawyer Assist You With Guardianship Issues?

When you are trying to protect the best interests of your loved ones, it can feel overwhelming to consider all the options involved with guardianship and its alternatives. A skilled guardianship lawyer can evaluate your situation and help you devise a unique plan to protect your loved one while considering their individual needs and wants. A lawyer will draw up the necessary papers and can assist you if the plan needs to be adjusted in the future. Guardianship lawyers also have experience fighting for the rights of those who have been unfairly forced into guardianship, or have been taken advantage of by their guardians.

Author Bio

Kevin Piwowarski Shields

Kevin Shields

Kevin Shields is a Founding Member and Special Education Lawyer at Shields Law Firm, representing children and families in special needs matters throughout Texas. Before becoming a lawyer, Kevin worked as a general education teacher and fought for increased inclusion time for his students receiving services. He advocated for his students by calling out providers who missed sessions and was often the dissenting voice at the IEP table.

Kevin obtained his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law School and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. He is admitted to practice law in Texas, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and holds memberships in the State Bar of Texas, focusing on School Law, Juvenile Law, and Child Protection Law. He is also a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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