The Guardianship Process
The process of finding a guardian for your incapacitated family member can be long and complex and emotionally draining. At the Law Office of Sharon C. Stodghill, we understand how difficult this process can be for our clients, and we strive to bring you clarity and compassion during this trying time.
Applying for Guardianship
Our Houston lawyers can help you through this difficult process as you seek to protect your loved one’s interests. The process involves many steps:
- An applicant, usually a family member of the proposed ward, must file an Application for Appointment of Permanent Guardian, usually in the county where the proposed ward lives.
- The applicant provides proof of a thorough examination of the proposed ward by a qualified doctor or psychologist within the past four months by a Texas doctor. The doctor or psychologist may be asked to testify, but usually their testimony in court is not necessary.
- The application must include appropriate identifying information for the ward and proposed guardian, as well as a description of the relationship between them.
- The application must also specify whether guardianship of the person or estate, or both, is sought, the circumstances requiring guardianship, the term of guardianship, the value of the proposed ward’s estate, the name and address of any person holding a power of attorney, and a description of the type of power of attorney. If the proposed ward is over 60, the names and addresses of the proposed ward’s next of kin must also be provided.
- A citation is served in person on the proposed ward.
- The court may appoint a court investigator to meet with the proposed ward, his or her family, and anybody else required to determine if guardianship is appropriate.
- If the court investigator’s report finds merit in the application, an attorney ad litem is appointed to advocate for the proposed ward and to conduct further investigation.
- A court hearing is set, which all interested parties must attend unless the court decides otherwise. The proposed ward is entitled to a jury trial and any person who does not have an adverse interest may contest the guardianship, including the proposed ward.
- At the hearing, the court will determine the ability of the proposed ward to take care of his or her own personal needs and physical health and to manage his or her own property and financial affairs.
- To award guardianship, the court must find that the proposed ward is incapacitated, that it is in his or her best interest to appoint a guardian, and that the person who is appointed to serve as guardian is eligible and qualified to serve.
- If the court finds that the proposed ward has some ability to care for him or herself or manage property, it appoints a guardian with limited powers.
- Otherwise, the court appoints a guardian with full authority, gives directions to the guardian regarding the appraisal of the ward’s assets and specifies the amount of the bond, which is an insurance policy to protect the assets of the ward.
- Letters of Guardianship are issued by the county clerk as evidence of the authority of the guardian to act on behalf of the ward. Letters expire 16 months after the date of issue.
- The guardian may renew the Letters of Guardianship after filing an annual report.