There are a few things that go into establishing legal guardianship. Whether it’s for an adult or a child, here are a few things you should know.
How to Set up Legal Guardianship of a Child
The process starts by filing a petition with the local courts. You’ll need the necessary papers as well as a filing fee. If you are setting this up for a child, a letter of consent from the parents can also help the process go smoothly.
From there, the court will set up interviews with several parties. The interviews will likely be with the guardian, child, child’s parents, and anyone else who may have an interest, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle.
Once the judge has decided the guardian is a good fit, they will be given an order from the courts establishing them as the child’s legal guardian.
How About Temporary Guardianship Without Courts?
You may have heard that a person can get legal guardianship without going to court. While that can happen, it requires specific circumstances.
For example, a grandparent can become what’s called a Standby Guardian. This process starts by having the child’s parents sign a document from the probate court that authorizes the grandparent the guardianship status in case something happens to them. For example, if the parents get in a car accident and aren’t able to take care of the child for several months, the Standby Guardian is able to take care of the child without having to go to court. Keep in mind the maximum length of care is just one year.
Setting Up Legal Guardianship in Your Will
It’s generally a good idea for parents of young children to assign legal guardians as part of their will. This serves several purposes:
It helps the parents rest assured that the child will go to the people they choose.
It helps the guardianship process go more smoothly if the parents do pass away.
The key is to make sure you discuss this before you actually do it in your will. You don’t want to spring a surprise on someone. Talk with the people you want to designate as your child’s guardian to make sure they’re comfortable with it.
Setting Up Legal Guardianship of an Adult
This process starts similar to that of getting guardianship of a child. Papers are filed to the court, along with a filing fee. Some of those papers document the person’s health and disabilities to help explain why the person is in need of your care. In other words, you need to explain why they need a guardian.
Other people will then become involved. Family members will be contacted and asked to fill out paperwork. They can either support or oppose guardianship - also called conservatorship. The person who will be taken care of will also be asked for information and their approval.
Legal guardianship for adults with disabilities requires such an arduous process to help protect all parties involved. The court doesn’t want to approve something that will put the patient at risk of some kind of abuse. Unfortunately, financial abuse and exploitation cases are somewhat common with seniors and the court wants to avoid that as much as possible.
The last step is a court hearing, where the court decides if they will approve it and give an order to the new guardian. This article gives a great overview of how to prepare for the hearing.
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