How Can a Texas Guardianship Benefit Your Loved One?
Worrying about the health and welfare of a beloved family member can be incredibly stressful. It can be particularly heartbreaking if you’ve realized they cannot reliably manage the basic details of their lives, such as living arrangements, medical decisions, and finances. Whether this situation has developed suddenly due to age, illness, or injury, or is an ongoing issue due to a disability, you are likely seeking solutions to protect your loved one’s future.
Guardianship is one legal option that may help ensure the safety and security of an incapacitated person. When the court appoints a guardian, they become responsible for the affairs of their ward (the incapacitated person). A Texas guardianship can be tailored to meet the needs of the situation and may be full or limited in scope.
Although guardianship is a useful legal tool for families looking to safeguard their loved ones, the process must be embarked upon with great care. Courts are often hesitant to appoint a guardian unless there are no other viable options because it removes many of the ward’s fundamental civil rights. If you are considering guardianship for your loved one, it is essential to consult a skilled Texas guardianship lawyer to discuss the options available to you.
When May Guardianship Be Appropriate?
Texas law stresses that guardianship should only be undertaken if the individual has mental or physical limitations that render them incapable of handling their daily affairs. Even if guardianship is the only feasible option for ensuring the individual’s well-being, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The arrangement should be carefully and thoughtfully designed to encourage the highest possible level of independence and self-reliance suitable for the ward.
The circumstances that make the guardianship necessary will often dictate the plan’s scope. Still, the proposed ward, their legal representative, and other interested parties may present their opinions to the court for consideration during hearings. The court may choose to name a guardian if the ward:
- Has a long-term disability that impacts their ability to provide for themselves.
- Has developed an illness or physical infirmity due to age or disease that has caused incapacitation.
- Has suffered a severe injury or medical emergency and cannot make or voice decisions about their care.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Guardian?
A court-appointed guardian is obligated to act in the best interests of the ward at all times. The extent and duration of their duties are determined by the court when they are appointed. A Texas guardian may handle the ward’s personal affairs, financial affairs, or both, depending on the needs of the individual. Additionally, a guardian may be appointed permanently or temporarily.
Permanent guardianship is the most common type, but temporary guardianship may be used in cases where the ward has experienced a serious illness or injury that inhibits their decision-making abilities in the short term but is anticipated to eventually regain their faculties.
Depending upon the defined role of the guardian, they may be in charge of essential decisions that impact the ward’s health, finances, or well-being. Functions fulfilled by a guardian can include:
- Consenting to medical care on the ward’s behalf
- Deciding where the ward will live
- Ensuring the ward’s bills are paid and their finances are in order
- Applying for government benefits for the ward
- Making certain the ward’s needs for food, clothing, and shelter are being adequately met
The guardian must file reports with the court annually to document their actions. The court will carefully scrutinize these reports to ensure the guardian is acting appropriately within the scope of their duties. The court may remove or replace the guardian if they do not meet the reporting requirements. The ward or their family members can also petition for a guardian’s removal if they believe the appointed individual is not upholding the ward’s best interests or if there is no longer a need for a guardian.
Do Alternatives to Guardianship Exist?
While guardianship may ultimately be the best choice for the health and safety of your loved one, Texas courts encourage families to explore less restrictive alternatives before deciding to seek guardianship. Guardianship is protective for the ward, but that protection comes at the cost of relinquishing many of their basic rights. If you are uncertain about what type of support and assistance would be most beneficial for your family member, a knowledgeable Texas guardianship attorney can evaluate your situation and help you build a plan that meets your loved one’s needs.
Other potential legal strategies for safeguarding an individual with disabilities include:
- Supported decision-making agreements: In 2015, the Texas legislature passed Texas Estates Code § 1357, which outlines the use of supported decision-making agreements as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship. This type of agreement allows an individual with a disability to continue making choices about important life decisions with the assistance of a designated “supporter” who can provide guidance and information.
- Trusts or other money management tools: Financial planning strategies may be implemented to protect the assets of a person with disabilities from unscrupulous people or unwise spending decisions.
- Power of Attorney (POA): By drafting a POA, an individual can designate someone to act on their behalf regarding financial or medical decisions.
How Can an Experienced Texas Guardianship Lawyer Assist You?
No one wants to see a loved one struggling or vulnerable to exploitation by others. Guardianship can provide a way for you to assist them and make sure they are living the best life possible based on their circumstances. However, it is critical to investigate all the assistance options available under Texas law to avoid placing your loved one in an overly restrictive situation.
Our compassionate lawyers at The Hatchett Law Firm have decades of experience helping families navigate the legal challenges of caring for a loved one who may need extra guidance. We can help you build a plan that balances their independence with the care and support they need to thrive. Contact our law firm today to schedule a complimentary case assessment session: 281-771-0560