Legal Guardianship in Texas

When Is Guardianship Needed?

Whether due to illness, injury or the loss of parents there are some children and adults who will need to be legally attended to under the care of a responsible adult who can adequately provide for them. In adults, mental and physical disabilities can incapacitate a person beyond their ability to care for themselves on their own. When this is the case, the court will need to appoint a legal guardian to step in and take over the responsibility of ensuring that this person receives the care, attention and emotional support required to lead a healthy lifestyle in light of their circumstances. In these cases, the Court will take away the incapacitated person's rights, deem him or her a "ward," and give those rights to a third party who will then be responsible for attending to the needs of the ward.

Legal guardianship can also be applied to situations in which a child under the age of 18 is left without parents to properly care for them. Still a minor, these children or adolescents are in need of adult care. The Court will therefore need to assign a legal guardian who will be held accountable for the child's care and overall wellbeing. When an individual is appointed as the guardian of an adult or child in need of extra care, they will be expected to operate under the same principles that would guide a typical parent. The goal will be to allow for the development of the child and as much freedom and growth as possible.

Types of Guardianship

There are currently two types of legal guardianship in the State of Texas: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate. The conditions of each are as follows:

Guardianship of the Person
When an individual is legally assigned as the guardian of a person they will be in charge of any and all matters pertaining to the ward's person. Included in the duties assigned to the legal guardian of a person are decisions that pertain to where the ward will live and the type of medical care that the ward will receive.

Guardianship of the Estate
An individual who is appointed as the guardian of an estate will be responsible for all aspects of the ward's finances. Included in the duties of the guardian of an estate is paying a ward's bills on time as well as managing their income and personal assets in a responsible and safe manner.

Becoming a Legal Guardian

Legal guardianship is not fit for everyone; in fact, some individuals who are interested in taking on the responsibilities associated with guardianship will ultimately be unable to do so. In order to legally become the guardian of a child or incapacitated adult you will first need to retain a Dallas estate planning attorney who can assist in the completion of your Application for Guardianship. This is a process that will be completed in Probate Court (or another court depending on the county where the child or proposed ward live). Upon receiving your Application, the Court will then appoint a lawyer for the individual who may be in need of a guardian, and actions will be taken to determine if you are suitable to take on the responsibilities associated with becoming a guardian.

If the Court determines that a less restricted alternative is available then the Court may not create a guardianship. Otherwise, the Court will conduct a trial to determine whether the proposed ward is incapacitated - unable to care for themselves, and whether or not the proposed guardian is the right person to take on the job. Suitability will depend on a number of factors.