The most common reason that people need a guardianship is because they are caring for a child whose parents are unable to care for them. The second most common reason is caring for an adult who can no longer take care of themselves. A guardianship can also be sought for a person who not capable of caring for his or herself due to a mental or physical disability. In any of these cases, caring for a person without legal authority to make decisions for them can make things logistically and legally complicated. That’s where a guardianship comes in.
What does guardianship mean?
Guardianship means that the guardian has the power to make decisions regarding the “ward.” There are three types of guardianship: guardianship over the person, the estate, or the person AND the estate.
A guardianship over the estate is needed when the ward has financial assets that need to be managed. In a guardianship over the estate, the guardian may have to post a “bond” with the court proportionate to the size of the estate they will be managing.
To be a guardian over someone, that person has to be “incapacitated.” This could be because they are a minor, or because they have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from caring for themselves.
What does it take to be a guardian?
To be a guardian in Arkansas, you must be a resident of this state, be at least 18 years of age, be of sound mind, and not be a convicted and unpardoned felon.
How do you get a guardianship?
You file a petition for a guardianship in the county where the proposed “ward” resides. You also have the notify all of the interested parties. In the case of a minor, his or her parents. In the case of an adult, you have to notify the adult and their closest family members. If the proposed ward is in the custody of some kind of institution, then you have to notify the director of that institution. And if the proposed ward is receiving some kind of state services, like from DHS, then you have to notify DHS as well.
It may be possible to get the parents of the ward, or family members, to sign a waiver saying that they consent to the guardianship. If so, the matter will be uncontested.
You will have to have a hearing before a judge, where you explain the petition and why you are asking for guardianship. If the matter is contested, both sides will be able to explain why they do or do not think that a guardianship is warranted and/or that the proposed guardian is the appropriate person to do the job.
What is the end result?
If the guardianship is granted and an ordered is entered, you will be issued “letters of guardianship” that you can present to parties when you have to make decisions for the ward. In the case of children, you would present them to their school, their doctor, or their daycare. In the case of adults, you would use them any situation where you need authority to act on their behalf.
Getting guardianship over a person you’re caring for gives you a host of protections when making decisions for that person. If you think you need a guardianship, come in and see me for a free consultation.