What is a guardianship and what’s the process for obtaining one?
A guardianship is a legal process where a person (the proposed guardian) petitions a court and asks to be appointed guardian over another person (the proposed ward). A guardianship typically occurs either when a person with special needs reaches the age of 18, or when an adult loses or begins to lose control of his or her faculties. If the guardianship is granted, the guardian can make legal decisions and health care decisions for the ward. A guardianship does not give the guardian the right to manage a ward’s money – that is done through a conservatorship, which can be a part of the guardianship proceeding. Instead, guardians can make decisions for the ward that affect the person of the ward, such as health care decisions. Once a guardian is appointed, the ward typically loses legal rights such as the right to vote, the right to marry, the right to own firearms, etc., although the court may choose to let the ward retain some of those rights.
Because the guardianship process removes so many rights from a ward, a guardianship is not something that should be entered into lightly. Instead, there should be a clear need for a guardianship. The guardianship process begins when a proposed guardian petitions the probate court located in the county in which a proposed ward resides. The probate court will appoint an attorney for the proposed ward, contact a doctor who will examine the proposed ward, notify family members of the petition, and set a date for a court hearing. At the court hearing, the attorney for the proposed guardian will present evidence before the court showing why a guardianship should be granted – typically the testimony of family members and any other concerned parties about the proposed ward’s situation. The court will also examine the doctor’s report. The attorney for the proposed ward will testify about his or her opinion on the guardianship and whether it’s in the best interests of the proposed ward. At the conclusion of the evidence, the court will either grant the guardianship or deny the guardianship.
Some people who can’t wait on a permanent guardianship may seek a temporary guardianship on an emergency basis. Guardianships can be an involved legal process. If you are in the metro Atlanta area and have any questions about guardianships, contact Marietta guardianship attorney Sarah White at 678-453-6490 to learn more.