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How Long Does it Take to Get Guardianship?

7 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

Guardianship is a helpful and often necessary legal tool when an individual is a minor or unable to make decisions for themselves. 

The courts appoint guardians. How long it takes to achieve guardianship varies, but can take from a couple of weeks to a few months.

If you’re interested in becoming a guardian, an unbundled guardianship lawyer can guide you through the process. We can connect you with one in your area today.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal relationship formed to make important decisions and assist an individual if they are a minor, incapacitated, or incompetent. The person whom the guardian cares for is called the ward.

Individuals may feel guardianship is unnecessary, but having the court’s backing gives a guardian legal authority to make decisions and perform certain tasks. Without this authority, certain tasks are impossible to complete.

Some states use guardianship and conservatorship interchangeably, while other states treat the two differently. In states that handle guardianship and conservatorship differently, a guardian is one with the power to decide over the ward’s health and wellbeing, while a conservator handles the ward’s finances. 

To better understand how your state handles guardianship, discuss your concerns with a guardianship lawyer in your area.

Guardianship for Minors

A guardian for a minor has the power to decide for the child and provide support and protection.

A minor often needs a guardian if parents are not available to care for their child, either because the court has terminated their parental rights, physical or mental incapacity, incarceration, or death are present. 

Guardians may physically take care of a child, or they may just take care of the child’s finances, depending on the parents’ desires or the child’s needs.

Guardians for minors may do the following things:

  • Providing a home for the child
  • Ensuring the child is cared for and supported and all their needs are met
  • Making important decisions, including medical and educational decisions
  • Enrolling the child in school 
  • Handling the child’s finances or inheritances

The child does not choose their guardian. In some states, after the child has reached a certain age, typically around 12-14, the court may allow the child to voice their preference for their guardian. 

Depending on the circumstances, the parents may choose the guardian. For example, if parents pass away but had selected their minor child’s guardian in their last will and testament, the court would likely appoint the individual named in the will. 

If parents do not choose a guardian, the court must decide. The guardian need not be a family member, but the court usually prefers to appoint an individual the child knows. 

Guardianship for Adults

Individuals over 18 may need guardians if they suffer from mental incompetency or become incapacitated. A legal guardian has the power to make decisions and care for the ward.

An adult guardian may handle these tasks: 

  • Ensuring the ward is cared for and their needs are met
  • Managing the ward’s living situation 
  • Making medical decisions for the ward
  • Managing the ward’s finances, property, and assets

Guardianships are common at any age but are particularly useful once an individual reaches their elder years, as many elders lose the ability to care for themselves and make their own decisions. 

Wards often may not pick their guardians; the court handles appointing guardians for adults. Potential guardians must meet these criteria:

  • They must be over 18
  • They must be a resident of the state where the ward lives
  • They cannot have a criminal record
  • They must be of sound mind

Some states may have additional criteria, for example, a potential ward must not have filed for bankruptcy within the last seven years.

While a ward cannot choose their guardian in many instances, someone seeking an appointment may petition the court to become an individual’s guardian. The judge can then determine whether this person meets the requirements and would successfully serve as guardian for the ward.

What Does the Guardianship Process Entail?

The process to establish guardianship depends on the circumstances, age of the ward, and state law.

For child guardianship, if the parents pass away but leave details regarding guardians in their will, the judge can determine whether this person is fit to serve and formally appoint the selected guardians as instructed in the will. If a child needs a guardian for other reasons and parents may not choose, the person seeking guardianship goes through the court.

If a person wishes to become a child’s guardian, they can draft and submit a petition to the court. In some states, some cases also need a letter of consent from the child’s parents.

After initiating the guardianship case with the court, subsequent actions depend on your state’s procedure. You’ll need to attend a hearing in which the judge will hear your reasoning for seeking guardianship and review all evidence and documentation indicating a need. The judge can then decide whether to appoint you as guardian.

Guardianship for adults is a similar process. For individuals seeking to become an adult’s guardian, they can file their petition with the court along with supplemental documents. The potential guardian and potential ward attend a hearing, allowing the judge to review the evidence and make their decision.

For adult guardians, however, seeking an appointment is more challenging, as the potential guardian must provide solid, indisputable evidence that the adult suffers from mental incapacity or incompetence and requires a guardian. Just because an individual makes questionable or reckless decisions, it does not mean they legally require a guardian.

While the guardianship process can seem daunting, a guardianship attorney can assist and help obtain a favorable outcome.

How Long Does it Take for the Court to Appoint a Guardian?

The time required to get guardianship rests upon the circumstances and type of guardianship sought.

Guardianship does not happen overnight — the process can take some time. The time from initiating the guardianship case to receiving an appointment can take from a couple of weeks to a few months.

The time it takes depends on how quickly the other party receives notice of the potential guardian filing the court case and when the court schedules the hearing. Some states also require an investigation for minor guardianships which could add some time.

While it’s not always possible to speed up the guardianship process, having a lawyer on your side can help complete the tasks quicker.

What Happens Once a Judge Approves a Guardianship?

After a judge approves guardianships, appointed guardians may need to file additional documentation.

Your state may also like to receive periodic updates to ensure wards are doing well and guardians are performing successfully. Either the guardian needs to file paperwork with the court, or the court can investigate through a third-party investigator and submit a report to the court. 

A guardianship attorney can provide direction regarding what you’ll need to do after your appointment to continue with the guardianship.

How Long Does Guardianship Last?

Guardianship duration can depend on many details, including the guardianship type and state law.

For minor children, guardianship commonly lasts until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in most states. Guardianship may also terminate sometimes if the ward gets married or passes away. A guardian may petition the court to extend the guardianship past the age of majority if they can provide evidence of necessity.

For adults, guardianship usually has no expiration date and continues indefinitely until the ward passes away. Sometimes, if the incapacity is temporary, the guardianship can end after the ward is no longer incapacitated. 

When states require guardians to follow up with the court periodically, the letter of appointment may indicate an end date for the guardianship should the guardian fail to follow instructions. If the guardianship ends due to the guardian’s failure to provide the court with an update, they would need to petition the court for reinstatement. 

Let an Unbundled Lawyer Guide You Through the Guardianship Process

Guardianship attorneys can help you handle your guardianship case. However, hiring a guardianship lawyer can be costly. An unbundled lawyer can provide the legal guidance you need while keeping legal fees at a minimum.

An unbundled lawyer has the same education and experience as a traditional attorney; the only difference is the way they handle their services. Instead of handling your case from start to finish, an unbundled lawyer is available to take on the most important tasks you need help with. Therefore, you only pay your lawyer for the services they render.

Whether you need assistance with drafting your petition or representation in court, an unbundled guardianship lawyer can help you when you need it most.

Unbundled Legal Help has a large network of unbundled lawyers. We can match you with your ideal unbundled guardianship lawyer in your area.

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