Guardianship Lawyers in Lenoir County Helping Clients Resolve Family Law Matters
If you have a loved one who cannot make decisions on their own behalf, guardianship is an excellent option. Under legal guardianship, you can make decisions for an individual about their personal affairs, property, or healthcare needs. Similar to a parent-child relationship, a guardian is responsible for the well-being of an individual who cannot properly care for themselves.
Becoming a guardian is a noble endeavor requiring a lot of legal knowledge. If you are considering becoming a guardian or would like to look into guardianship for a loved one, consult with our team today. Our lawyers at Swindell Law Firm, PC, have years of experience representing families and individuals who wish to obtain guardianship. For more information and to receive a free consultation, call today at 252-262-1325.
What Does a Guardian Do?
A guardian is responsible for the well-being of the individual they have been entrusted with. The individual, also called the ward, must participate in decision-making about their personal and medical needs. However, the guardian is the one who has the final say in any decisions about assets, personal affairs, and healthcare. Guardians must also provide food, shelter, education, and clothing. They must also meet the medical and dental needs of the assigned ward.
The order signed by a judge will detail a guardian’s specific powers. However, a guardian typically has the ability to decide where the individual lives and make medical decisions on their behalf. A guardian must file a report to the court annually about where the protected person lives and what services they receive. Similarly, the guardian must get permission from the court before paying themselves with the protected person’s money or assets. If at any time the court decides that guardianship is no longer needed, a judge can revoke these powers.
How is a Guardian Appointed?
The guardianship process can be lengthy, but it is much faster with a legal team on your side. If you’d like to become a guardian, you must first file a petition with the court. A guardianship attorney on our team can review your petition and ensure that you meet all legal requirements for guardianship. After your petition is filed, the minor’s parents will receive notice about your petition. At the same time, a court visitor will evaluate the suitability of your proposed guardianship arrangement.
If any individual objects to the guardianship, they can file an objection with the court. In this case, you may have to fight before a judge to prove that your guardianship would be in the child’s best interest. A judge will evaluate any objections as well as witness statements from the court visitor and other individuals. The judge will then decide whether the ward is truly incapacitated and needs a guardian. In some cases, a judge will order parties to settle objections with a mediator before this hearing can be held.
If there are no objections to the guardianship from close relatives or the court visitor, a judge will likely sign an order appointing you as the minor’s guardian. Once a guardian has been appointed, the ward is now called a protected person.
Can the Court Appoint a Guardian for an Adult?
While guardianship is most often appointed to minors, the court may appoint a guardian for an adult in some cases. This is done if the court finds convincing evidence that an individual cannot competently manage their own affairs or make good decisions for themselves. This could be due to disabilities, mental illness, injury, or disease. The court must find concrete evidence of incompetence to appoint a guardian for an adult. Simple, poor judgment is not a sign of incompetency.
What Are the Alternatives to Guardianship?
Because the guardianship process can be long, some individuals may choose to find alternate paths to help manage a loved one’s assets or personal affairs.
Below are some alternatives to guardianship that our team can help you explore:
- Power of attorney. An adult who is of sound mind can assign a power of attorney to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf in the future.
- Representative payee. Individuals who receive state or federal benefits and cannot manage these benefits can be assigned a payee to manage their funds.
- Living wills. Living wills dictate medical treatments an individual would or would not consent to.
- Special needs trust. A special needs trust (SNT) holds money for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
- Joint bank accounts. Joint bank accounts can require both signatures for a withdrawal to help manage money.
- Home health care. If an individual needs medical assistance, home care agencies can assist with bathing, dressing, cooking, and cleaning.
- Supported decision-making. Some individuals may need extra help from friends or family, like financial or medical advice.
Can Guardianship be Modified?
If an individual wants to modify a guardianship, they can file a motion with the court. The clerk will hold a hearing to determine whether this modification is in the protected person’s best interests. If the guardian is unsuitable, the court can remove the guardian entirely and either assign a new one or determine that the protected person no longer requires guardianship.
How Can a Guardianship Lawyer Help Me?
Obtaining guardianship of a loved one is a noble effort, but it can take time and legal paperwork that is hard to parse. Consulting with a guardianship lawyer is the best way to ensure your petition for guardianship is accurate to avoid delaying the process. Similarly, a guardianship lawyer can help you understand your duties and responsibilities as a guardian to keep your ward’s best interests in mind.
Please don’t feel like you must navigate this tricky legal process on your own. Call Swindell Law Firm, PC today at 252-262-1325 for more information and to learn how we can help you.