| Read Time: 3 minutes | Guardianship

Families and caregivers in Austin who support loved ones with disabilities may find navigating the legal system overwhelming, and this can often lead to confusion and uncertainty. The crucial decision of pursuing guardianship is hard to make, but it can ensure the well-being and legal protection of your loved one. If you’re considering pursuing legal guardianship for an adult with disabilities, this article explains the process, responsibilities, and implications specific to Texas law.

Legal Guardianship for Adults with Disabilities in Texas 

Legal guardianship in Texas is a court-ordered arrangement where a designated guardian assumes legal decision-making authority for an individual who is deemed incapacitated. The lack of capacity can be due to a mental disability or a severe mental illness. 

This means the adult with disabilities, referred to as the ward, may lack the ability to make informed choices regarding daily living, medical care, or finances. Guardianship ensures the well-being of adults with disabilities by providing oversight and protection that’s meant to safeguard them from potential exploitation or neglect.

Texas guardianship law prioritizes the ward’s best interests. According to the Texas Estates Code, the probate court in your loved one’s county of residence oversees the guardianship establishment process.

Types of Guardianships in Texas

Texas law acknowledges that adults with disabilities may need varying levels of support. The guardianship system offers two primary options:

  • Guardianship of the person—grants the guardian decision-making authority regarding the ward’s living situation, healthcare, and personal well-being; and
  • Guardianship of the estate—authorizes the guardian to manage the ward’s financial affairs, including assets, income, and debts.

In some cases, a full guardianship encompassing both areas may be necessary. However, courts prioritize the least restrictive option first, granting limited guardianship in many cases. This option tailors the guardian’s authority to address specific needs and seeks to ensure the ward retains as much autonomy as possible.

The Guardianship Process in Austin

The process to establish legal guardianship for adults with disabilities in Texas typically involves the following steps:

  • Petition for guardianship—an interested party, such as a family member, files a petition with the probate court outlining the ward’s alleged incapacity and need for guardianship;
  • Capacity evaluation—the court appoints a qualified professional to assess the ward’s cognitive abilities and functional limitations;
  • Notice to interested parties—the court notifies the ward and other potentially interested parties about the guardianship petition;
  • Hearing—a judge holds a hearing and considers evidence and arguments from all parties involved; and
  • Guardianship order—if the judge determines guardianship is necessary, they will issue an order outlining the guardian’s specific powers.

This list is a simplified overview, and the specific steps may vary based on individual case circumstances.

Guardianship for Adults with Mental Illness in Texas

For adults with mental illness, the guardianship process in Texas follows the same general steps as outlined above. However, in cases involving mental illness, the judge gives careful consideration to the individual’s specific diagnosis and its impact on their decision-making abilities.

Implications and Considerations of Guardianship

Guardianship is a significant legal step that takes certain rights away from the ward. Judges carefully consider many factors before implementing such a drastic remedy, and ongoing checks and balances help keep tabs on the ward’s welfare. 

  • The least restrictive alternative. Texas law emphasizes the least restrictive alternative principle. This means the court will explore all other options, such as supported decision-making, before resorting to guardianship.
  • Ongoing review. The court periodically reviews guardianships to ensure their continued necessity and assess any changes in the ward’s condition. If, at some point, the ward regains his or her ability to control their affairs, a judge will likely lift the guardianship.
  • Respecting the ward’s rights. Guardians should always try to involve the ward in decision-making whenever possible, respecting their autonomy and dignity.

We highly recommend consulting an experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning. They can assist in assessing whether guardianship is warranted and advocating for alternatives to guardianship—such as supported decision-making or other less restrictive options—when appropriate.

Responsibilities of a Guardian

A guardian becomes a fiduciary, meaning they have a legal and ethical duty to act in the ward’s best interests. Responsibilities may include:

  • Making healthcare decisions, including consenting to medical treatment;
  • Managing finances, including paying bills and investing assets;
  • Providing for the ward’s physical and emotional well-being, ensuring safe and appropriate living arrangements;
  • Advocating for the ward’s needs and rights in various settings; and
  • Filing annual reports with the court.

The guardian must be trustworthy and reliable. Successful guardianship arrangements require open communication and collaboration among the guardian, family members, and healthcare providers.

Guardianship comes with significant responsibilities and implications for the appointed guardian. For your loved one, it can mean a loss of some independence and control over their life. 

Therefore, guardianship should be considered as a last resort after exploring less restrictive alternatives.

Robbins Estate Law: Your Partner in Guardianship

Robbins Estate Law in Austin understands the emotional toll of guardianship proceedings. Our compassionate and experienced legal team is dedicated to helping families establish effective guardianship plans that prioritize the well-being and legal protection of their loved ones. We provide guidance throughout the process while protecting your loved one’s rights and best interests.

Contact us today for a consultation to discuss how we can ensure the best possible care for your loved one.

Author Photo

Kyle Robbins

Kyle Robbins is the founder and sole owner of The Law
Offices of Kyle Robbins. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law and his B.S. in Food Chemistry and Microbiology from Oklahoma State University.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars