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When a person can’t make decisions for themselves because of their age or a medical condition, Texas law allows a guardianship relationship to be established to help protect the vulnerable person. Establishing guardianship requires the help of an experienced Houston guardianship attorney.

What is Guardianship? 

Also known as conservatorship, guardianship provides legal protection to those who are unable to care for themselves. The individual, known as a protected person or ward, is placed under the care of a custodian or guardian.

A person may be placed under a guardian’s care if they’re:

  • Incapacitated due to physical or psychological illness
  • Injured in an accident
  • Suffering from some other incapacitating condition
  • A minor

Guardianship arrangements do attempt to maintain the ward’s independence, but they still affect the individual’s rights, including the freedom to:

  • Choose his/her residence
  • Get a driver’s license
  • Marry
  • Vote
  • Provide consent for medical treatments
  • Make end-of-life arrangements
  • Own or possess a firearm

For this reason, guardianship should only be sought in appropriate cases.

Guardianship Responsibilities 

In Texas, guardians have certain legal responsibilities and must perform certain legal tasks. This may include:

  • Maintaining and/or making decisions related to the ward’s assets.
  • Making sure the ward’s bills are paid.
  • Making sure the ward is getting the appropriate medical care.
  • Ensuring the ward’s living needs are being met.
  • Filing annual reports with the court.

Guardians typically have to ask for the court’s approval when taking action. This further helps protect the ward’s best interests.

It’s important to note that guardians are not responsible for funding the ward’s lifestyle or for paying his/her debts.

Who Is Eligible To Serve As A Guardian? 

Guardians are typically family members, friends, or court-appointed individuals.

Texas courts will look closely at the individuals or organizations willing to be guardians. Several things are considered.

  • Family members are given preference over programs and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
  • Criminal convictions may disqualify an individual from serving as a guardian.
  • If the proposed guardian owes money (or is otherwise indebted) to the proposed ward, that individual would be disqualified from serving as guardian unless the debt was paid before the appointment.

The court has the right to disqualify any individual or program from serving as a guardian.

Do I Need a Houston Guardianship Attorney to Help Establish Guardianship? 

If guardianship is the right choice for you or a loved one, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to hire an attorney to establish the guardianship. The answer is yes. It’s important to remember that guardianship limits the ward’s rights and guardians take on more responsibilities. It’s a complex relationship and legal process that requires the experience and expertise of a guardianship attorney.

Understanding Guardianship For Adults And Minors 

Multiple forms of guardianship exist for adults and minors. Texas guardianships include:

Guardian of the Person 

Full or limited guardianship of a person means that you will have the legal right to decide a lot of the person’s life decisions, such as:

  • Place of residency
  • Medical treatment
  • Psychological treatment
  • Contact with friends and family

The person will be your ward, but they’ll still have a right to make some of their own decisions, including relationship and driving decisions. Limited guardianships also exist where you’ll have certain rights, and the court will decide other rights for the ward. A court may decide that the ward can marry or vote at their own discretion.

Guardian of the Estate 

An estate guardian has the right to control the ward’s estate, including their money and finances. Guardians are not held liable for the ward’s debts, and they can make important decisions with the court’s approval, such as:

  • Investing the ward’s money
  • Buy or sell property
  • Pay debts, etc.

Limited guardians of estate can make some, but not all, of the financial decisions of a person. The ward may be allowed to make decisions relating to their property, but the guardian may be responsible for ensuring the ward pays all of his or her bills on time.

Guardian of the Person and Estate 

In some cases, a guardian may be appointed for both the person and estate. This is covered in the previous two points.

Temporary Guardianship 

A temporary guardianship is often in effect for 60 days unless the guardianship is contested. These forms of guardianship are only provided in rare circumstances where there’s evidence:

  • That the person is incapacitated
  • That the person is a danger to themselves or their estate
  • The estate needs immediate guardianship

Permanent guardianship may be granted if the issues during the temporary period are not resolved.

Minor Guardianship 

Minor guardianship is for individuals under the age of 18 to help protect the child’s legal rights. If the child’s parents have died or are no longer able to act on behalf of the child, guardianship is appointed. Typically, a family member will take on this responsibility. In addition to ensuring the minor is cared for, the appointed guardian may be responsible for the minor’s inheritance from the parents’ estate. This can include life insurance, real estate and other assets. Guardianship is not a decision to be taken lightly. A Houston guardianship attorney can help you understand how the process works, whether it’s the right decision for your family and guide you through the process of establishing a guardianship.

A Houston Guardianship Attorney Here To Support You

Whenever you find yourself needing to reach out to our office, you can be sure you won’t need to wait for hours or days in order to get a response. Here at Stafford Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being easily accessible and on responding to all client inquiries as soon as possible.

The fact of the matter is, one day you will need to fall back on your estate plan. Whether it will simply be to pass on your family’s wealth after you pass, or something even more heartbreaking like needing a new guardian appointment for your children, having a thorough and customized plan in place will help make sure your family and your future are well taken care of.

Reach out today for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

In general, a guardianship will fall under one of the following categories:

  • Full guardianship – when someone has the full authority to make all decisions about finances, medical care, etc for the person they have guardianship over
  • Limited guardianship – when someone has authority to only make specific decisions for the person they have guardianship over, based on the details of the guardianship documents

Whenever possible, most attorneys will recommend pursuing a power of attorney instead of full guardianship. Full guardianship completely takes the decision-making rights away from the person, whereas a power of attorney simply grants these rights to someone else as well. In an effort to protect a person’s own autonomy, a power of attorney is usually preferable — if possible.

A guardian is responsible for their ward’s personal wellbeing. This generally means that they will be able to make financial and medical decisions, on their ward’s behalf, as well as personal decisions such as where their ward will reside. The specific powers granted to a guardian can vary, however, and will be laid out in detail in the guardianship documents.