Fayetteville Guardianship Lawyer Helps You Protect Loved Ones
Trustworthy advice and representation for adults seeking legal authority
As part of our estate planning practice, the Arkansas attorneys at Gramling Estes Law Firm often field questions about guardianships for minor children, as well as incapacitated adults. Most of these questions come from clients who want to name a guardian for minors or disabled adults in their care if something unexpected should happen. But while naming a guardian as part of the will drafting process is a prudent step, your selection is not legally binding, since only a court can confer guardianship authority over another person. We also hear from clients who want to be named guardians over adults who are incapacitated in some way, and we represent them throughout the legal process. Whatever your particular guardianship concerns entail, our Fayetteville firm offers valuable guidance.
What Is a guardianship?
Guardianship is legal authority over the person and/or property of a minor child or an incapacitated adult, known as the ward. A guardian of the person has authority akin to a parent to make decisions regarding the health and welfare of the child, as well as the legal responsibility for providing suitable care. A guardian of the estate manages a ward’s property and finances for the ward’s benefit.
A court can appoint a guardian for a minor child whose parents are deceased or have had parental rights terminated. You can seek guardianship of an incapacitated adult if he or she:
- Has a mental or physical disability
- Lacks the requisite mental capacity
- Is a chronic user of drugs or alcohol
- Has another condition that inhibits sound management of health, safety or financial matters
A guardianship lasts until:
- The ward dies or moves out of state
- A minor ward becomes emancipated or reaches the age of majority
- A ward is judge no longer incapacitated
- A court grants an order dissolving the guardianship
Legal guardianship is one way to meet a loved one’s needs, but powers of attorney, which are more limited in scope, and conservatorships are also viable options in many situations. A conservatorship is quite similar to guardianship, but the assignment is made at the request of the ward.
Who can become a guardian and how?
Persons who wish to become guardians must be:
- A state resident of the state
- At least 18 years of age
- Of sound mind
- Not a convicted or unpardoned felon
A three-stage process determines whether a qualified adult will be given legal authority over the proposed ward:
- Filing the petition — The would-be guardian files the petition in the circuit court of the county where the would-be ward lives, and serves notice to the ward.
- Evaluation — If no professional has evaluated the ward within six months prior to the hearing, the judge orders an evaluation by a physician, psychologist and/or social worker. The evaluators submit a report to the court and may be called to testify at the hearing.
- Hearing — In court, the ward has the right to counsel, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses and submit countering evaluations by professionals of their choosing. In our practice, we also represent clients who object to losing legal authority by being made a ward.
The judge then decides the matter based on the best interests of the ward.
A family lawyer at our firm can guide you through the process. Establishing a guardianship can be very challenging, especially for older adults who don’t want to admit they are losing the ability to care for themselves. Our highly professional team treats your loved ones with the dignity they deserve as we work towards the best outcome for all.
Contact a concerned Arkansas family lawyer for a free guardianship consultation
Gramling Estes Law Firm in Fayetteville represents Arkansans in a wide range of matters related to guardianships, conservatorships and powers of attorney. For a free initial consultation, please call 479-480-4250 or contact us online.