If disease or injury leaves a person unable to make decisions and manage their daily life, guardianship may be an option for the care and keeping of that individual. But often it is not the only option. While guardianship is the best and only option in some cases, it should be a last resort rather than a first step. Why? Guardianship unavoidably takes away some of a person’s basic rights. This is a legal action that you should take very seriously.
If you are considering guardianship, ask yourself:
- Why is guardianship necessary? Make a list and be sure to include the solutions that you believe guardianship will provide. Will this action truly be the answer to the situation?
- What community resources are available? Could these resources supplement the relevant individual’s life to the point that guardianship is not necessary—at least, not yet?
- What kind of support system does the individual in question have? Consider family, friends, community outreach and religious community affiliations. Could they receive enough help from these sources without a legal guardian?
- Could there be additional resources you don’t know about? Contact a local agency, such as the agency on aging (AAA) or the aging and disability resource center (ADRC) to help you get in touch with the community resources you’ve come up with and, possibly, identify even more.
- How does this individual’s support system feel about guardianship? This is a big decision, and you should not make it alone.
- How does the individual feel about their situation? Involve them as much as possible in decisions about their future. They have rights.
- Have you done everything possible to allow this person to maintain their independence and decision-making capacity before filing for guardianship?
If guardianship seem to be the best option, Texas requires that you file official documentation with the court, which will then select the appropriate individual. Know that the court monitors guardianship, and a guardian must file paperwork and renew it annually. Also, once guardianship is in place, it is likely to remain in place unless new evidence of the person’s increased capacity comes to light.