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A guardianship is established for the care of an individual who cannot make important decisions for themselves. This may be a child who by virtue of his or age is not competent to make certain decisions. It may also be a person who because of a serious medical condition (traumatic brain injury, dementia, etc.) may be unable to make important decisions. While the goal of any guardianship is the same – the protection of the individual as well as the protection of the person’s assets, there are some important differences.

In the event that a family member or a friend of the family needs some temporary help with the raising of a child, the guardianship option can be a viable option for the family.

For instance, if both parents are being deployed and will be physically unavailable to care for a child, a guardianship is established so that the child can continue to receive medical care and also be allowed to enroll in school (if applicable). When the parent returns from deployment the guardianship is dissolved and the normal parent-child relationship resumes.

If the guardianship is established on a longer term basis the guardianship will end when the child becomes an adult.
As part of any guardianship an initial guardianship plan must be filed that outlines where the child will be living and with whom and the medical provider for the child; this should include all the assets of the child (if any). Additionally, if the guardianship lasts for longer than one year the guardian(s) must file an annual report that outlines that the child is attending school (if applicable) and that the child is continuing to receive medical care on a routine basis. The annual report should also outline if any extraordinary events have occurred in the life of the child.

This situation often involves a person who cannot make decisions because of some physical illness. Often this is a person who is suffering from extreme loss of cognitive issues or some other major mental impairment, such as severe mental illness. The spouse of the person is a natural guardian and most of these situations involve cases where there is no spouse.

In this situation, it is usually one of the family members that petition for a guardianship to be established. In this case there must be appropriate medical documentation from the person’s treating physician that establishes the infirmity. There should also be some discussion among the family members about who will act as the guardian or co-guardians.

Once the petition has been filed, the Court will appoint an examining committee who will examine the person to determine if the person is competent to make decisions. If the committee reports to the Court that the person cannot make those decisions, the Court will then appoint the guardian(s).

In the situation that involves an adult there are typically assets and an initial accounting that lists all the assets in addition to the initial guardianship plan that must be filed. On an annual basis an annual report and an annual accounting must be filed that shows the status of the assets and the status of the individual. This type of guardianship typically terminates upon the death of the person.

If you have any questions about guardianships in general, please call our office at 904-717-6325 to speak with an attorney.