1. What is Guardianship?
Guardianship is a legal way of protecting an incapacitated person. The Texas Probate Code defines an incapacitated person as: “an adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter to himself or herself, to care for the individual’s own physical health, or to manage the individual’s own financial affairs.” Notice that this does not include minor children (those under the age of 18 years) which is because children under the age of 18 years old are considered incapacitated by the law (except in a few special circumstances.)

2. I am unsure about all the different terms I hear when discussing a guardianship. What do they mean?
Guardianship law has many special terms - let’s define them now.
  1. Incapacitated person - is defined in the Texas Probate Code as “an adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter to himself or herself, to care for the individual’s own physical health, or to manage the individual’s own financial affairs.”
  2. Ward - an incapacitated person is called a Ward after the court establishes a Guardianship for their care and Proposed Ward before the court acts on their behalf.
  3. Ad Litem - is a person appointed by the court to represent the Proposed Wards’ interest in the Guardianship process. These can be either Attorney Ad Litem or Guardian Ad Litem. The court is always required to appoint an Attorney Ad Litem and will sometimes appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. These are usually paid for by the assets of the Proposed Ward or the county if the Proposed Ward has no assets or means to pay.
  4. Guardian of the person – this is a type of Guardianship used to care for the Ward and determines health care and treatment as well as where the Ward lives and related issues.
  5. Guardianship of the estate - this is a type of Guardianship used to protect the Wards’ assets. Courts will often appoint people as Guardian of both the estate and the person to fully take care of the Wards’ interests.
  6. Least restrictive alternative - courts are required to use the least restrictive alternative to protect the Ward and the Wards’ interests. It is sometimes possible to protect the Ward without a Guardianship or by using a Guardianship to remove only those rights of the Ward needed to protect them. Removing all rights is sometimes called a Full Guardianship rather than a Partial Guardianship.
3. If my family member needs a Guardian, what is the process?
The process to set up a Guardianship generally follows the steps below but may change due to your particular case or if someone contests the appoint;
  1. Meet with an Attorney to guide you through the process.
  2. The court will require a doctors’ letter and the letter format is usually one provided by the court.
  3. Your Attorney will draft a request for Guardianship and other required documents and file them with the court along with the doctors’ letter.
  4. The court will often have an investigator look into the situation and meet with you and the Proposed Ward.
  5. The court will also appoint an Attorney called an Attorney Ad Litem to represent the Proposed Ward so you can expect a call to set up a meeting between the family member and the Ad Litem.
  6. The court will require that the Proposed Ward be served with process (given a copy of the papers filed with the court so they know about your request to be the Guardian). It may be necessary to serve other people in the family depending on the situation. Your Attorney may offer alternatives that are easier and cheaper.
  7. After all have received the notice, the Attorney will get with the court and get a date to present your case to the judge.
  8. If the case is uncontested (no one is objecting) and the court finds a need for the Guardianship, then the judge will grant you Letters of Guardianship. These will be your authority to act on behalf of your incapacitated family member.
  9. You will be required to post a bond. This is something you need to be aware of and evaluate your credit history to see if you can get the required bond. The bond is based on the amount of assets the Ward has. It can be a small bond if the Ward does not have much. There are also alternatives if the Ward has a lot of assets. You should discuss the bond with your Attorney before applying to be the Guardian.
  10. You will also have to complete a budget for spending the Wards’ money and file yearly accountings with the court.
  11. Remember there may be alternatives to a Guardianship and they are discussed in another tab labeled “Alternatives to Guardianship” on this page and you should consider them with the advice of a qualified Attorney.
4. I need to do something. What is the next step?
Set up a meeting with a Guardianship Attorney to discuss your options. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation. Please use the contact button on this page or call my office to set up a free initial consultation.

5. What will happen at the initial meeting and what are my obligations?
This initial meeting is at no charge to you. I will review your situation and recommend a solution that best fits your needs. I will also quote you a price for the services we agree are needed. After the meeting, I will send you a letter with a recap of our agreement and the cost. If you elect to hire me to work with you, all you will have to do is sign and return the letter to me with the required deposit.