Understanding the Duties of Guardianship

Last updated on: April 19, 2024

Navigating the responsibilities that come with the role of a guardian in Texas can feel like traversing a legal labyrinth. It’s a position of trust and care that requires a deep understanding of both the legal obligations and the personal duties involved in safeguarding the well-being of a minor or an incapacitated adult. Whether you’re stepping into this role for a loved one or considering it as a possibility for the future, understanding the full scope of guardianship is crucial. 

For those in the Houston area embarking on this journey, the complexities of guardianship laws can be daunting. Knowing when and how to seek professional guidance is key. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about the legal implications of your guardianship duties, it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable Houston guardianship lawyer. At The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, our team of Houston guardianship attorneys may be able to help ensure that you fulfill your responsibilities with confidence and legality. Contact us today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation, and secure the support and guidance you need to navigate this important role effectively and compassionately. 

Understanding the Duties of a Guardian

Becoming a guardian comes with a significant set of responsibilities aimed at ensuring the well-being of the ward, typically a minor or an incapacitated person. The primary role of a guardian is to care for and protect the ward’s physical, emotional, and educational needs. This includes providing food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

In many jurisdictions, including Texas, a guardian has the legal authority to decide where the ward lives and to consent to various medical treatments, barring inpatient psychiatric commitments without further legal proceedings. A guardian is also expected to manage financial assets responsibly, often needing court approval for any substantial use of the ward’s funds.

Guardians are tasked with making critical decisions regarding the ward’s care, which can include consenting to medical treatments or even arranging for the ward to receive an examination at a mental health facility. In such situations, guardians must notify the court of any significant actions, including changes in the ward’s living situation.

Furthermore, guardians must keep relevant family members informed about crucial changes affecting the ward, such as a change in residence, admission to a care facility, or death. Additionally, guardians hold the responsibility of renewing their Letters of Guardianship annually, providing the authority to make decisions on behalf of the ward.

Lastly, guardians must file an Annual Report with the court to account for their stewardship. This report is a legal requirement and must be original, complete with signatures and notary seals. If a guardian fails to file this report, they may be summoned to court to explain why they should not be relieved of their duties. It’s important for guardians to stay informed and compliant with court requirements to avoid any legal complications.

Understanding the Role of a Conservator

In most cases, when a guardian is appointed, so is a conservator. The conservator’s responsibility is to manage property and money. Some family members act as a guardian and conservators, but this is disallowed when a professional is appointed as professional oversight requires a system of checks and balances. A court-appointed family member guardian and conservator is assumed to act in the best interest of their family member. If there are enough funds available, a guardian can hire caregiving help, provide different therapies, or utilize adult daycare. A conservator’s responsibility to manage funds in the best interest of the aging parent should dovetail with the guardian’s goals, and in no way should these funds be conserved to guarantee adult children an inheritance. Guardianships differ from state to state, including the terminology used for guardians and conservators. Some states have an office of public guardianship that accepts cases from low-income individuals and some private clients. Just as in estate planning, probate attorneys, and elder law, it is crucial to retain an estate planning attorney specializing in the area of guardianship and conservatorship.

Understanding the Process of Guardianship

Houston guardianship lawyer

The process can be long and complex, particularly in the case of an aging parent, as they will lose fundamental rights having their care entrusted to another person. A general discussion between the aging parent or older person and their relatives as to why guardianship is the best way forward is a good place to begin. The legal process starts with filing a petition for the appointment of guardian or conservator form. This form includes information about the proposed ward and their relatives, the person submitting the request, the reason guardianship is necessary, and an explanation for why alternatives to guardianship are either not available or appropriate. A court investigation commences determining if there is a need for guardianship. If warranted, a court hearing is scheduled where the judge reviews the petition, listens to statements, and determines whether or not to grant the guardianship petition. Every court-appointed guardian is entitled to reasonable compensation for their services. Often when a guardian is a spouse, family member, or close friend, they will waive any payment. In the case of a private or public guardian, the individual is paid directly from the ward’s estate.

Guardianship Hearing Process in Texas Details
Testimony by proposed guardian Proposed guardian testifies about the ward’s incapacity and the extent of guardianship required, presenting medical records and a doctor’s report within 120 days to support the need for guardianship.
Court decision The court decides to approve or deny the guardianship request based on the evidence presented during the hearing.
Appointment of new guardian If approved, the new guardian must file a bond and take an oath to fulfill their duties faithfully and act in the ward’s best interests. Once approved, the court clerk issues Letters of Guardianship to the guardian, valid for one year and 120 days, renewable annually by the court.

What Is the Guardianship Hearing Process in Texas?

During the guardianship hearing, the proposed guardian will testify at the guardianship hearing about the proposed ward’s incapacity and the extent to which the proposed ward requires guardianship. The proposed guardian will also present the ward’s medical records and a letter and report from a doctor within 120 days to support the need for guardianship.

The guardian-ad Litem will summarize the findings of his or her investigation, and advocate for the best interests of the proposed ward at the hearing. The court may also ask the attorney ad litem to provide a written report on the ward’s best interest. The court will decide whether to approve or deny the guardianship request at the end of the hearing.

Once the court approves the guardianship application, the new guardian will be required to file a bond and take an oath to faithfully perform their duties and act in their ward’s best interests. After the court approves the bond and oath, the court clerk will issue Letters of Guardianship to the newly appointed guardian. They are proof that the guardianship is approved and let the court know that the guardian is able to act on behalf of the ward. The letters are valid for one year and 120 days from the date they were issued but can be renewed by the court each year.

An aging parent’s ability to accept the idea of guardianship on their behalf is an admission that they cannot maintain their independence. It is best to be very clear about the process and not mislead them or create unnecessary stress by not fully understanding all involved. Retaining an attorney specializing in guardianship and conservatorship can protect the process from missteps and make it a smoother transition for all parties involved.  Please contact our Houston office at (281) 214-0173 or the Bay City office at (979) 318-5079 today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your legal matters.

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