Understanding a Guardianship Case
Guardianship is generally awarded in one of three situations. Most guardianship
cases involve a minor, a developmentally disabled adult, or an incapacitated senior.
Guardianship of Minors
There are a few scenarios in which a guardian might need to be appointed
for a minor.
- The death of both parents
- Abandonment of parental responsibilities
- Cases of neglect or abuse where it is unsafe for a child to remain in his
or her family home
If a minor child’s parents die or become legally incapacitated due
to illness or injury, then a guardian will need to be appointed to care
for the child until he or she reaches the age of majority. In this tragic
scenario, the best-case circumstance is that the parents have designated
a guardian in their estate plan. As long as the estate plan is legally
enforceable, the parents’ wishes will be respected – unless
their chosen guardian declines to serve in the role. If no guardian has
been designated, then one will need to be appointed through the probate process.
The probate process is also used to appoint a guardian for a minor child
in cases where the parents are living but are otherwise unavailable or
unfit to raise the child. As you might expect, these guardianship proceedings
are often emotionally charged, especially in cases where the parents wish
to retain custody of their children. Our Carmel guardianship attorney
is experienced in representing all family members during this process.
We can help you understand what you need to do to secure the best outcome
for the children involved – which may include exploring alternatives
to guardianship as well.
Guardianship of Developmentally Disabled Adults
As individuals with developmental disabilities mature into adulthood, appointing
a guardian can become essential to ensuring that they have the help and
support they need to live stable lives and maintain as much independence
as possible. When seeking to establish guardianship of a developmentally
disabled adult, the person seeking to be appointed as guardian must file
a petition with the court.
This petition should contain information such as:
- The nature of the adult’s incapacity
- The approximate value and description of the adult’s property, including
insurance and financial accounts
- Any proposed limitations on the scope of guardianship
- Whether the adult is currently the subject of a protective order or the
ward of a previously appointed guardian
- The names and addresses of the adult’s closest relatives
- The name and address of the person or institution that currently has custody
of the adult
- The petitioner’s interest in being appointed as the adult’s guardian
These same factors are also considered in guardianship proceedings involving
minors and incapacitated seniors. Once the petition has been filed, the
probate court will schedule a hearing at which the petitioner, the adult,
and anyone opposed to the appointment of the petitioner as the adult’s
guardian will have the opportunity to appear. Unless the adult already
has an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to represent him or
her during the guardianship proceedings.
Guardianship of Incapacitated Seniors
In many cases, adult children and other loved ones will need to serve as
guardians for their aging parents and loved ones. If possible, it is generally
best to appoint a guardian before the senior is deemed legally incapacitated.
This appointment can be structured to take effect only if and when it
becomes necessary. If your parent or other loved one’s condition
has deteriorated rapidly, or if the necessary documentation is not already
in place, Attorney Hains can work with you to ensure that an appropriate
guardianship is established as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Handling Guardianship Cases with Care
Every guardianship case should be handled with care, as the outcome impacts
both prospective guardians and wards. Ultimately, all three types of guardianship
stem from a basic acknowledgment that the senior, minor, or adult in need
of a guardian cannot properly care for themselves.
Well-being and financial stability are two of the main issues considered
when appointing a legal guardian. Therefore, those seeking guardianship
rights must demonstrate their ability to offer a high quality of life
for the ward while ensuring their financial security for the future.
When handling guardianship cases,
Attorney Joshua R. Hains speaks extensively with each client to gain a better understanding of
their circumstances. All cases are fact-sensitive, but guardianship cases
are especially so. Thus, it is essential to begin the attorney-client
relationship with clear communication and transparency. Our Carmel guardianship
attorney works specifically with each client’s individual needs,
but can only do so once all of the details have been presented.
After gaining a comprehensive understanding of the case at hand, Attorney
Hains can begin to address each element of the case, offering insight
and guidance every step along the way. Whether that means filing a petition,
reaching out to the parents of the child in question, or waiting for further
action, all clients are kept well informed of the progress being made.
What Are a Guardian’s Rights & Responsibilities in Indiana?
In Indiana, a guardian has broad authority and responsibility to make decisions
on the ward’s behalf unless the guardian’s authority and responsibility
have been expressly limited by the court during the guardianship proceedings.
In general, a guardian’s authority includes:
- Entering into contracts
- Consenting to medical care
- Deciding where the ward should live
- Managing the ward’s finances
What Are a Ward’s Rights?
In most cases, a ward will retain certain rights. If a guardian’s
authority is limited, any powers not conferred upon the guardian will
remain with the ward.
Wards have the right to:
- Request a different guardian
- Seek to terminate guardianship
- Have access to friends and family
Potential Alternatives to Guardianship
Becoming someone’s guardian is a significant undertaking. While it
will be necessary in some situations, there are also a variety of potential
Depending upon your loved one’s specific needs and his or her current
medical condition, these options may include:
- Informal means of support
- Establishing a joint bank account
- Executing a living will or advance healthcare directive
- Executing a durable power of attorney
- Obtaining a protective order
- Pursing a child or adult adoption
Can a Guardian Quit or Be Removed?
Yes, it is possible for a guardian to quit and for someone else (including
the ward) to challenge an existing guardianship order.
However, unless and until the court makes a final determination, the guardian
must continue to serve in his or her appointed role.
Some valid reasons to challenge or seek to terminate guardianship in Indiana include:
- Guardianship is no longer necessary
- The guardian is not fit to manage the ward’s finances or health care needs
- The guardian is not acting in the ward’s best interests
- The current guardian and a proposed guardian agree that responsibility
should be shifted
An Experienced Approach to Guardianship Matters in Indiana
After a decade of experience in
family law, Attorney Hains has navigated countless guardianship cases. This breadth
of experience has situated him as a respected and trusted authority on
family law matters. Integrity, compassion, and a commitment to client
satisfaction are mainstays of our practice at Hains Law, LLC.
Call us at
(317) 588-2883 or complete our
online contact form today.