If you’re like most people, you have many questions about guardianship in NC. How do you become a guardian? Can you stop being the guardian? How does our state handle guardianship issues such as modification of the guardian? Let’s explore guardianship in NC and the possible issues you may face as a caregiver or family member of a Ward.

What is Guardianship in NC?

In North Carolina, guardianship is a legal relationship between a person unable to care for themselves (the Ward) and another person or entity (the Guardian) who agrees to assume responsibility for the Ward’s welfare.

There are different types of guardianships with varying levels of authority. The court tries to give a Ward as much freedom and independence as possible.

A judge must approve the guardianship arrangement. The Guardian receives certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning the Ward’s care.

How Does Someone Become A Guardian in NC?

Suppose you know someone struggling to make decisions about their life on their own or who can no longer care for themselves appropriately. In that case, you can file a petition with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the person lives to become a guardian.

The court must determine that the person is incompetent before declaring a guardian. The court asks a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the claims of incompetence and make a recommendation to the court. Friends and family, doctors, and other witnesses may also testify. The respondent (potential Ward) may also hire an attorney. The petitioner may also hire an attorney.

If the judge finds the person incompetent, they declare a guardian for the ward.

What If My Child is Disabled but Almost 18?

When a child who suffers from intellectual or developmental disabilities reaches the age of adulthood, the parent relationship is no longer in existence to protect the person. If the grown child still needs help to make decisions, they may need the protection of a parental figure beyond 18.

As parents, you’ll need to petition the Superior court to get this legal authority. Judges often appoint parents as guardians. It makes sense for the parents who’ve cared for the child all these years to continue caring for and making decisions for the disabled adult.

The Clerk of Superior Court makes this decision, although parents may also let their attorney handle the process. Once parents become legal guardians, the arrangement may stay in place for decades or until death occurs.

Watch as Chris Wilms, guardianship attorney and partner at Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, PLLC explains how to modify a guardianship when parents pass away.

How to Modify a Guardianship

Often, a Ward will need care until they pass away. If you’re the sibling of an adult who needs a guardian, your parents may have taken on that responsibility. But what happens when your parents pass away?

Often siblings take over as Guardians when parents pass away. If you’re a sibling who wants to become a Guardian, you’ll need to file a motion to modify the guardianship. You’ll need to file this with the Superior Court, where the original guardianship order took place.

However, if you know that your parents may pass away soon, you can have them do the paperwork to name you as successor guardian. In this way, there won’t be a time when the Ward has a gap in caregivers.

By planning, you can ensure that someone will have the legal authority to sign and transact business on your disabled sibling’s behalf at all times.

What Are Some Issues I May Face As A Guardian in NC?

There are many issues that Guardians may face while caring for their Ward. One common issue is disagreements with other family members about the care of the Ward.

Another issue Guardians may face is difficulty getting access to information or resources needed to care for their Ward properly.

Often, the continuing inventory reports a Guardian must make to the court can become cumbersome. If you struggle to make sense of it all, a guardianship attorney can help you file any motions, petitions, or inventories.

What If You No Longer Need a Guardian?

A guardian or an individual under guardianship may petition the court to have the

individual’s rights restored by filing a petition with the original court. If you’re under guardianship, you have the right to petition the court to change the guardian or restore your rights.

Contact Disability Rights NC, the Protection and Advocacy Agency for North Carolina, for more information. (1)

We Can Help

If you’re facing guardianship issues in NC, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced guardianship attorneys for help. At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, we can help you manage petitions, modifications, and inventories. And we represent you at hearings to ensure the best outcome for your situation! If you have any questions about guardianship in NC, feel free to contact us today. We’re here to help!

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