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What to know about guardianship proceedings in probate

Mar 26, 2024 | Probate & Estate Administration

When a loved one becomes unable to make decisions for themselves due to incapacity or disability, establishing a guardianship may be necessary. Guardianship proceedings in probate court make it possible to appoint a guardian to make decisions on their behalf.

Before attending probate court, however, there are a few key things to know about guardianship proceedings.

Guardianships defined

Guardianship is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints an individual to make decisions for someone unable to make decisions for themselves. This can include decisions about medical care, living arrangements and finances.

Initiating guardianship proceedings

Guardianship proceedings typically begin when someone files a petition with the probate court, stating that a person is in need of a guardian. The court will then schedule a hearing to determine whether guardianship is necessary.

The role of the guardian ad litem

In many guardianship proceedings, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the incapacitated person. The guardian ad litem will investigate the situation and provide the court with a report on whether guardianship is appropriate.

Types of guardianship

There are different types of guardianship that the court may consider, depending on the needs of the incapacitated person. A full guardianship entrusts the guardian with authority over all aspects of the person’s life. A limited guardianship, on the other hand, entails restricting the guardian’s authority to specific areas such as medical or financial decisions.

Ongoing oversight

After appointing a guardian, the court will typically continue to oversee the guardianship to ensure that the guardian is acting in the best interests of the incapacitated person. This may include requiring the guardian to file regular reports with the court or appearing at periodic review hearings.

There are an estimated 1.3 million older adults in guardianships in the U.S. today. The practice of initiating a guardianship is fairly common, and there are clear procedures for doing so, but navigating those procedures during probate may require thorough planning and understanding ahead of time.