Contested guardianship actions could have significant impacts on families’ lives. The outcome of a contested guardianship case may forever change your family and the life of the person who needs a guardianship. In Texas, a judge decides who becomes guardian, and anyone can contest a guardianship. As a result, you need professional legal help with a guardianship request from the start.
What Is Guardianship?
Guardianship means that a specific person is legally in charge of handling someone else’s day-to-day needs. There are two kinds of guardianships: guardianships of the estate and guardianships of the person. A guardian of the estate handles someone else’s finances, assets, and money. A guardian of the person handles someone else’s physical and personal needs, such as medical decisions, food, or housing. You can be both a guardian of the estate and person at the same time, or you can be only one of the two.
Most people who need guardianships have been found to be incapacitated by a court of law. To receive an incapacity finding, a proposed guardian must provide medical documentation. If the court makes a finding of incapacity, it then appoints what it deems an appropriate person to act as guardian. Generally, the types of people who need guardianships include:
- Adults with physical disabilities
- Adults with mental disabilities
- Children with disabilities who are turning age 18
- Adults with mental health difficulties such as dementia
- Children who receive valuable property
If you know someone in one of these situations, it’s time to sit down with a Houston lawyer and learn about your options for guardianship.
Who Can Become a Guardian?
Anyone can file a guardianship request with a court. Because this is the case, contested guardianships are common when more than one person seeks to be guardian. In Texas, the court does not automatically approve the person who filed the guardianship request. Instead, it looks to many different factors when deciding who should become the guardian.
Sometimes, the person who needs a guardian (the ward) signed a designation of guardian. This document specifies who they want as guardian should anything diminish their capacity. It also can specify who they do not want as guardian. It is not binding on the court, but it can give valuable guidance.
If there is no designation of guardian, then the court looks to the Texas Estates Code. These laws list an order of preference for guardians. Spouse is the preferred choice, then family members, and then any other suitable person. The court also considers the relationship of the proposed guardian to the ward, the ward’s needs, the proposed guardian’s ability to meet those needs, whether the guardianship is temporary or on an emergency basis, and more.
What Is a Contested Guardianship?
As stated above, the court does not automatically approve anyone as guardian. There must be a noticed court hearing to determine incapacity and decide on a suitable guardian. Anyone can contest a guardianship. The guardianship can be contested at any time, from when it is first proposed to years later.
The proposed person who may need a guardian can contest a guardianship action, arguing that they have mental capacity and do not need a guardian. Other interested people, such as family members or friends, can contest whether the person needs a guardianship. They also can contest the choice of guardian. In arguing that the person does not need a guardian, contestants can propose less restrictive options such as powers of attorney.
When contesting the choice of guardian, interested people may seek to show that the current or proposed guardian is unfit. They may have failed to meet their responsibilities as a guardian, such as by mismanaging finances. The court may need to examine the guardian’s financial background or other factors in deciding whether to appoint a new guardian.
If you are facing a contested guardianship when seeking to be guardian for your loved one, you need a Houston lawyer you can trust. If you want to contest a guardianship in the Houston area, you also need a lawyer. The legal issues involved in guardianship can be complicated. Potential guardians may be focused on the emotional and practical issues facing them and the ward. In this situation, you need knowledgeable advice targeted to the legal issues at hand to reach your best outcome.
We Can Help with a Contested Guardianship Action
At Henke, Williams, & Boll LLP, our experienced Houston guardianship lawyers help clients find solutions to their legal issues. We take into account your unique situation when you are involved in a guardianship action. To set up a consultation, call (713) 936-5521 or use our convenient Contact Form.