Becoming a guardian

A legal guardian is someone who has been authorized by the courts to care for another individual, such as a child or elderly individual. For elderly individuals, a guardian is usually appointed when the elderly person becomes unable to make his or her own decisions or care for his or her health and well-being, as well as financial matters.

Incapacitated individuals who are married usually have their spouse appointed as their guardian, since they are the closest relative. If the individual is not married or their spouse is unable to be a guardian, the closest relative after is usually the next eligible person. However, if more than one relative exists of equal eligibility, the court will decide which is most qualified.

When there are no eligible family members, a court may appoint a guardianship program, a financial institution or a bank to care for the needs of the ward. In some instances, a state agency, such as the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services could be appointed.

While courts attempt to put an incapacitated individual’s best interest first and foremost when appointing a guardian, it is much better if a guardian is selected by the individual before he or she becomes incapacitated. Individuals should consider having papers drawn up by an attorney to appoint a guardian of their own choice in preparation, just as they should consider having a will drawn up when they are young.

Those who are applying for guardianship should understand the responsibilities they are being assigned. Properly fulfilling a guardianship role is extremely important, and the legal jargon can be quite confusing. If you have been or will be appointed as a guardian, you may need to speak with an attorney to be clear about your role and duties. You may have to make substantial decisions on behalf of your ward and should be well prepared.

Not everyone can be assigned as a legal guardian. For instance, minors cannot be a guardian of another individual. Others who might disqualify include someone who owes a debt to the individual who would be his or her ward, a person who might have a lawsuit against the ward or a person who has shown bad conduct, as well as those convicted of certain crimes.

Source: Texas Guardianship Association, “Guardianship Qualification,” accessed May. 14, 2015