When someone is not able to manage their personal care or financial affairs, it may become necessary to appoint a guardian or conservator (or both) to protect their interests and ensure that they are cared for properly. Parents are the natural guardians of their children, but sometimes, parents are not able to fulfill that role.
The need for a guardian or conservator for an adult is not as obvious. Guardianship strips an adult of their own right to self-determination, and that makes it an extreme measure. Courts do not generally approve guardianship without substantial evidence of the need to take this radical step.
If you need to seek guardianship of a loved one, it is wise to work with an attorney with a thorough understanding of legal guardianship proceedings. The Huizenga Law Firm, P.C. knows how to satisfy each of the requirements necessary to obtain guardianship or conservatorship, and we also realize that the process can be painful and frustrating. We work hard to reduce the burden on you and to avoid pitfalls that can delay the process.
Types of Guardianships and Conservatorships
Iowa law recognizes a few different types of guardian and conservator arrangements. Generally, a guardian is someone who makes decisions about another person’s personal care, including what they eat, where they live, what they wear, and related issues. A conservator manages someone else’s financial matters and real estate. The person cared for by a guardian or conservator is often referred to as the ward, although Iowa officially uses the term “protected person.”
Both guardianship and conservatorship can be general or limited. In other words, a conservator or guardian may have control over everything or their authority may be limited to specific facets of the ward’s life or finances. Because taking away an individual’s rights is a serious matter, a court would be more likely to approve a limited guardianship or conservatorship arrangement, if the ward is still capable of managing some things on their own.
Iowa law also allows for standby guardianship and standby conservatorship. An adult who is legally competent can prepare a written petition that provides for appointment of a guardian or conservator when certain conditions have been met, such as when an event occurs or when they reach a certain mental or physical condition.
Process for Establishing Guardianship or Conservatorship
It can be helpful to think of guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in two parts. First, you must prove to the court that the proposed ward is incompetent and that guardianship or conservatorship are the only options for ensuring proper care. If there are less restrictive alternatives available, the court will want those to be used first.
You will need to demonstrate that an individual has a disability to seriously limits their ability to function and show that their decision-making capacity is so impaired that they are unable to care for their own safety or provide for necessities such as food, shelter, and medical care.
Once the court is satisfied that guardianship or conservatorship is required, then you need to demonstrate that the individual or organizations proposed to serve in those roles is qualified to do so. One person can serve as both the guardian and conservator.
Get Help Appointing a Guardian or Avoiding the Need for Guardianship
With the right planning in advance, you can avoid the need for guardianship and conservatorship in many cases. At the Huizenga Law Firm, we can prepare power of attorney and other documents that provide for care and management in case of incompetency.
When it is too late for advance planning, we can work with you to determine whether less restrictive options are available and if not, we advocate on your behalf to succeed with the guardian and conservatorship process. Contact us now to learn more about the ways we can help.