What Is a Legal Guardianship Document?

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A legal guardianship arrangement occurs when a person is appointed to protect and make decisions for another, generally because the person is a minor or has become incapacitated. Legal guardianship documents can also take the form of a power-of-attorney document. There are several types of guardianship forms, tailored to meet specific needs. There are formal drafting requirements, along with judicial reviews (in some situations), to make sure the needs of the protected person are being met.

Types of Guardianships

  • Most states recognize three types of legal guardianships; temporary, limited and general, in addition to joint guardianships in limited circumstances. These allow a guardianship to be either narrow or broad in scope and duration. Regardless of the type of guardianship, the form (which is typically available from your local county or district courthouse) will require an identification of the ward (the person protected by the guardianship), the identification of the guardian and the length and purpose of the guardianship. Once it is completed, signed and typically notarized, the form may be filed in court.

Consent in Guardianships

  • When looking at guardianship of children, general and immediate guardianships typically do not require consent of the parents, as these are usually sought in cases of child abuse and neglect. For limited guardianships, parental consent is generally required, as these are voluntary agreements. Depending on the state, and the type of guardianship, there may be periodic judicial reviews and oversight to make sure the ward's interests and welfare are being protected.

Termination of Guardianships

  • Termination occurs when the reason for the guardianship expires (for instance, when a minor turns 18 years old), a successor guardian is appointed or a court terminates the guardianship. Successor guardian appointment and judicial termination require action by a court.

Powers of Attorney

  • A power of attorney is a form that appoints another (called the agent or attorney-in-fact) with decision power for the benefit of the principal or grantor. These arrangements allow the same transfer of power as a guardianship but do not generally require judicial approval. There are durable, general, limited and health care power-of-attorney formats. The form itself contains a statement by the current grantor naming the attorney-in-fact and indicating the time and duration of the powers transferred.

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