What Should I Know about Guardianships?

Orange City Iowa Estate Planning

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One of the key functions of the family law system is to ensure that children are looked after appropriately. This is the basis for the doctrine of legal guardianship.

In a perfect world, a child would be raised by its parents. However, this isn’t always possible, and legally enforceable decisions must sometimes be made to name the person who is best positioned to look after a child.  This is where guardianships come in.

A guardianship is generally only needed when a person is incapable—whether legally or practically—of looking after their own affairs, says VENTS Magazine in the article “Legal Guardianship 101: What You Need to Know.”

Courts have the power to appoint guardians for people who are unable to make decisions for themselves.

The typical subject of a guardianship is a disabled person, but guardians are appointed for minor children when parents consent to it, when their parental rights are removed by a court, or when both parents are dead or permanently incapacitated. Biological parents, if alive, keep their parental rights over the child.

Guardians can have duties to both the protected person and their estate. The duties to the protected person include providing necessities – like education and appropriate medical treatment – where necessary. As far as the estate of the protected person, the duties are to manage any funds properly and to spend them, pursuant to the protected person’s needs. If a Guardian is going to be placed in charge of the assets as well as the person, they are called a Conservator. In Iowa, Conservators must prepare an inventory of assets within 90 days of their appointment to the role.

To recap: a guardian is appointed to take care of a protected person and a conservator is a special type of guardian whose job is to take care of the estate.

To become a guardian, you must file a petition with the court. There will be a hearing on your application. You must present proof (from a doctor, for example) that guardianship is necessary under the circumstances.

Guardianship litigation can be stressful, but it is frequently necessary, so engage an attorney to help you.

Reference: VENTS Magazine (April 13, 2020) “Legal Guardianship 101: What You Need to Know”

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