In Texas, when a court appoints an individual to take care of another person’s financial dealings that person is called a “guardian of the estate”. An individual that is in charge of medical and personal decisions for another is a “guardian of the person”. In some situations, an incapacitated person may need just one type of representative and in others they might need both. The same person can be selected to do both. Both types of guardians are supervised by a court.
Guardianships are commonly established for people that are in comas, have Alzheimer’s disease or have other serious illnesses or injuries that make it impossible or very difficult for them to handle their own affairs. Selecting a guardian can be an important part of estate planning and many will contests focus upon what has happened under a guardianship.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Guardianship
Guardianships can be time consuming and somewhat expensive. They require court hearings and the use of a lawyer. The paperwork is considerable because the guardian must keep detailed records and file court papers on a regular basis. All court proceedings and documents are a matter of public record which can be upsetting to an individual that is used to having privacy.
On the other hand, guardians are subject to court supervision which can provide a safeguard to ensure that an incapacitated adult’s property is preserved. In order to prevent a guardian from mismanaging the property or taking advantage of a person that they are helping most courts require guardians to provide reports showing their actions. Many courts require the conservator to seek permission for certain decisions, such as selling property or terminating life support.
Also, a financial guardian must post a bond. The bond premiums are paid from the incapacitated person’s assets and they are an unnecessary expense when a guardian is competent and honest.
Sometimes a guardian will mismanage a person’s assets or make bad decisions regarding the person’s health care. Texas does have rules and protections in place to ensure honesty and competence, however, frequently counties do not have the resources to supervise every possible action. It is not unusual for a case of incompetence or mistreatment to go unnoticed by the court.