Watch as Chris Wilms, of Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna describes guardianship: what it is, the process to start it, and how to handle the difficulties that may arise.

Why Do Adults Need Guardianship?

Sometimes adults cannot take care of themselves and need another person to act as a quasi-parent in their life. An adult guardianship gives a legally appointed guardian the right to make decisions on behalf of an adult with diminished capacity.

Adult guardianship is for people who need a guardian to help them with daily life. People need help for all kinds of reasons, including:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Illness
  • Degenerative disease
  • Accident
  • Trauma

Who Needs an Adult Guardianship?

Someone you love may need a guardian if they cannot handle some of the daily activities in their lives, such as:

  • Financial duties
  • Medical decision
  • Residential decisions
  • Personal care

How Do Guardians Help?

When someone reaches the level where they cannot handle things on their own and can’t manage their own affairs, they may need a guardian who can act for them in their place. Guardians help with many different things, including:

  • Legal affairs
  • Sign papers
  • Transact business
  • Handle medical needs and decisions
  • Personal care decisions and needs
  • Business decisions

Starting a Guardianship Court Process

If someone you love needs help with living their everyday life, you must go through a court process that starts with filing a petition for incompetence. Your petition, filed with the Clerk of Superior Court, sets the process in motion to prove that an adult you care about needs help.

After you file a petition, the Clerk of Superior Court holds a hearing to determine whether to declare your loved one as legally incompetent and in need of a guardian. The Clerk also will select a guardian. (1)

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

During the court process, the Clerk appoints a guardian ad litem to advocate for your loved one accused of incompetence. This trained professional interviews and talks with other professionals and advocates for the person’s best interests.

Your loved one may tell the guardian ad litem that they don’t need a guardian. However, the guardian ad litem looks at medical records and anecdotal evidence to determine what is best for the person. They also make a recommendation to the court based on all information and interviews they’ve done.

Difficulties With Incompetence & Guardianship Hearings

Even in the best of circumstances, when all of the family and friends agree that a person needs a guardian, incompetence and guardianship hearings are a long process.

And, sometimes, everyone is not in agreement. If the person in question retains counsel to defend their incompetence, it may be that multiple interested parties have opinions about what should happen. Everyone involved may disagree.

An incompetence hearing is a lawsuit against a person, and they may hire an attorney to defend themselves. The person’s next of kin and other interested parties can also get involved.

Sometimes, groups of people believe different outcomes would be for the best. Some of these interested individuals may not have the best of intentions. Others may be well-meaning. Heated disagreements can crop up, and the whole process can become very complex. People can try to delay proceedings, and the court battle’s cost can rise quickly.

Also, if there is an unfavorable ruling you want to contest, the appeal deadlines in these types of cases are short. It’s easy to miss these deadlines without some help!

To make the process easier, gathering all evidence and making a good case the first time you show up is crucial. With a rock-solid case, you have a better chance of the best outcome!

We Can Help

At Hopler Wilms and Hanna, our experienced guardianship attorneys often act as a guardian ad litem, so we understand how guardianship cases work. We can help you bring the weighty evidence needed so the court works in your loved one’s best interests.

And we can walk you through each step of the incompetency petition process and any guardianship hearings. No matter how contentious the proceedings become, we come prepared and ready to defend your best outcome.

Contact us today to discuss your particular situation. We can answer all of your questions and help you get started moving forward in this process!

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