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What Is Guardianship in California?


Guardianship is a legal process designed to protect individuals who cannot care for themselves due to age, incapacity, or disability. In California, guardianship is established by the court and allows a responsible adult, known as the guardian, to make decisions and manage the affairs of the ward (the person under guardianship). This blog will explore the types of guardianship, the process of establishing guardianship, the responsibilities of a guardian, and the rights of the ward in California.

Types of Guardianship in California

California law recognizes two primary types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate. Each serves distinct functions and has different implications for the guardian and the ward.

Guardianship of the Person

Guardianship of the person grants the guardian the authority to make personal and healthcare decisions for the ward. This type of guardianship is often used for minors whose parents are unable to care for them due to death, incapacity, or other reasons. Responsibilities under this guardianship include providing food, shelter, education, and medical care.

Guardianship of the Estate

Guardianship of the estate involves managing the ward's financial affairs, including property, income, and investments. This type of guardianship is necessary when the ward has significant assets that need management, and the parents or existing caregivers are unable to handle these responsibilities.

The guardian of the estate must act in the best interest of the ward and is required to provide regular accounting to the court.

Establishing Guardianship in California

The process of establishing guardianship in California involves several steps, each designed to ensure the best interests of the ward are considered. The following is a breakdown of the typical procedure.

1. Filing a Petition

The process begins with filing a petition for guardianship with the probate court in the county where the ward resides. The petition must include detailed information about the proposed guardian, the ward, and the reasons why guardianship is necessary.

2. Notification

Once the petition is filed, the petitioner must notify certain individuals, including the ward (if over 12 years old), the ward’s relatives, and other interested parties. This notification allows those affected by the guardianship to voice any objections or concerns.

3. Investigation

The court may order an investigation to assess the suitability of the proposed guardian. This investigation typically involves a home visit, background check, and interviews with the guardian, the ward, and other relevant parties. The investigator will submit a report with reccomendations to the court.

4. Court Hearing

A court hearing is scheduled to review the petition and the investigator's report. During the hearing, the judge will consider evidence and testimonies from all involved parties. The judge’s primary focus is to determine what arrangement serves the best interests of the ward.

5. Court Order

If the judge approves the petition, they will issue a court order appointing the guardian. This order outlines the guardian's responsibilities and any limitations on their authority.

Responsibilities of a Guardian

Being a guardian comes with significant responsibilities, as the guardian must always act in the best interests of the ward. The specific duties depend on the type of guardianship, but they generally include the following items:

Guardianship of the Person

  • Providing care: Ensuring the ward has adequate food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare.
  • Education: Making decisions about the ward’s education and ensuring they attend school.
  • Medical decisions: Authorizing medical treatments and managing healthcare needs.
  • Daily activities: Overseeing the ward’s daily activities and ensuring their safety and well-being.

Guardianship of the Estate

  • Financial management: Managing the ward’s finances, including paying bills, collecting income, and managing investments.
  • Record keeping: Maintaining accurate records of all financial transactions and property management.
  • Reporting to court: Providing regular financial reports to the court, detailing the management of the ward’s assets.

Terminating Guardianship

Guardianship can be terminated when it is no longer necessary. For minors, this usually occurs when they reach the age of majority (18 years old). For adults, termination can happen if the ward regains capacity or if the guardian is no longer able or willing to serve.

A petition must be filed with the court to terminate the guardianship. The petitioner must provide evidence that guardianship is no longer required or that a new guardian should be appointed. The court will hold a hearing to review the petition and decide based on the best interests of the ward.

Do You Need Assistance with Guardianship?

Legal matters involving guardianship can be difficult to navigate on your own. Our experienced family lawyers at , however, what the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to help. No matter your need for legal assistance when it comes to guardianship, we can help you reach a solution.

For more information and to request a consultation, contact us online.

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