As our loved ones age, their ability to handle their affairs, interact with the world and take care of themselves can become more difficult. Should their finances become compromised or their health or mental acuity deteriorate, the adult children or grandchildren may have to make decisions on their behalf.

Adult guardianship is a legal relationship created by the court when the judge appoints a guardian to act on behalf of a ward. In Texas, a guardianship begins once the application for appointment is submitted and a hearing held at which the judge appoints a guardian. At this point, the person in need becomes a ward of the court.

There is usually a preference for choosing family members over guardianship programs. However, there are disqualifying considerations such as a criminal record, and a potential guardian may have to resolve any personal debt before the court can make the appointment.

Four kinds of guardianship in Texas

There are four basic types of guardianship in Texas:

  • Guardianship of the person allows the guardian to where the ward will live and can go, what contact with family members and what medical treatments they may receive. In a limited guardianship, the ward may have some personal freedom, such as a choice in marrying, voting or driving.
  • Guardianship of the estate enables the guardian to handle all financial aspects of the ward’s estate, purchase or sale of property, investments of assets and payment of bills. In a limited guardianship, the ward may make decisions such as buying or selling property.
  • Guardianship of the person and the estate makes the guardian responsible for all aspects of the ward’s person and estate.
  • Temporary guardianship. In Texas, the court grants a temporary authority of 60 days to an appointed guardian in the event of sudden incapacity of the ward or danger to his estate.

Pros and cons of guardianship

Guardianships are designed to protect those who are most vulnerable to exploitation, neglect or medical assistance, and are suitable not only for elderly individuals but also in situations where a person has a long-term disability, mental impairment or drug addiction. However, they are also the most restrictive of legal options designed to protect a vulnerable person.

Guardians make financial and/or medical decisions on behalf of those who no longer can take care of themselves, but in the process their wards can lose their most basic rights. A guardianship can be modified or terminated, but every change involves a complicated process. Getting information to find out the best options will make it easier to make decisions on behalf of a loved one.