Guardianship & Elder Law Attorney in Katy
Serving Families in Sugar Land and the Surrounding Areas
Guardianship is an important way to protect elders and the disabled, but the process of seeking and establishing guardianship must be navigated with care. At Barker Law Firm PC, we understand Texas’ laws governing guardianship and apply over 20 years of experience to your case. Our Katy guardianship and elder law attorneys are here to guide you, protect you, and help you prepare for the future.
What Is Guardianship?
In modern society, our elderly population faces many challenges. Some elderly people have relatively healthy bodies, but their mental capacity has deteriorated. Elderly people may be targeted by unscrupulous people for financial exploitation. Many elderly people outlive their retirement plans (and other financial assets) or have their estates eaten up with long-term care costs. But legal measures such as proper disability planning or guardianship can mitigate or avoid the serious issues faced by the elderly or incapacitated.
Guardianship is a relationship established by a probate court between an incapacitated person (known as the ward) and the person who is responsible for the ward's well-being — the guardian. Guardianships are most often sought for elderly people suffering from dementia or other age-related deterioration of mental faculties, and for young adults who have a mental or developmental disability that prevents them from caring for themselves safely.
Types of Guardians
There are two types of guardians: a guardian of the person, who manages the ward's day-to-day care, including making sure the ward has adequate medical care and shelter; and a guardian of the estate, who manages the ward's finances and property interests. Sometimes, a court will determine that the proposed ward only requires one type of guardian or the other. A guardian of the estate is often not appointed unless the proposed ward has significant assets that need to be protected. If the ward requires both a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate, it is possible, but not mandatory, for the court to appoint the same person to fulfill both roles.
When to Seek Guardianship
If you are considering seeking guardianship over someone you care about, it is important to understand that the process can be long and expensive. This is because the court must be able to determine that the proposed ward is truly unable to care for himself or herself due to a physical or mental condition.
A ward loses many basic rights when placed under guardianship, and this is not something the court takes lightly. When guardianship is sought — whether for guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, or both — the court will appoint an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem (also an attorney) to investigate and report whether the guardianship is in the best interest of the proposed ward. Furthermore, if guardianship is established, there are annual reporting requirements and a bond requirement if there is a guardianship of the estate.
Permanent guardianship may indeed be necessary to protect your loved one's health and finances. Our Katy guardianship attorney can advise you honestly about the process of guardianship as well as the ongoing responsibilities that you will face in taking on this legal relationship.
Temporary guardianship, also known as emergency guardianship, may be appropriate when an incapacitated person poses an imminent threat to his or her personal health and safety and/or to his or her estate.
An emergency guardianship may only last up to 60 days. After that, it must either end or be converted to a permanent guardianship. As with a permanent guardianship, the court will appoint an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem to help the judge decide whether guardianship is warranted.
It is extremely important to understand that guardianship involves taking away many basic rights of the ward, including the right to decide where they live, to consent to or to refuse medical treatment, to drive, and to manage their own finances. In very severe cases, the ward's rights to marry or even to vote may be restricted. Thus, before guardianship is sought, it is a good idea to explore whether a less-restrictive alternative may be sufficient to address the situation. In fact, a probate judge will not order guardianship unless the applicant proves that an alternative to guardianship would not suffice.
There are many common alternatives to guardianship that address concerns about the incapacitated person's health, safety, and/or financial well-being. Moving an elderly person into an assisted living facility, even perhaps a facility with a locked ward, could enable that person to live safely without an official guardian of the person.
A few alternatives to a guardianship of the estate include:
- Statutory durable powers of attorney
- Living trusts
- Money management programs
To learn more about how our Katy guardianship and elder law attorney can assist you with your case, call Barker Law Firm PC at (713) 597-3911.