The State of Texas has worked diligently to clarify and improve laws regarding guardianship. Lawmakers even went so far as to implement a comprehensive plan for guardianship reform and detailed the results in a January 2019 report.
Despite these efforts, common misconceptions surround guardianship arrangements, leading to misunderstandings about their purpose. Families should know the truth about guardianship to gain a better grasp of how this provision can assist the beneficiaries of an estate.
Myth 1: Exploitation is the main purpose
Famous examples of guardianship involving public figures have convinced some people that the arrangement only exists to exploit a vulnerable individual. In reality, most cases involve a guardian helping someone who cannot handle important tasks alone, like paying bills.
Because of the potential for abuse, getting an appointment for guardianship in Texas is challenging. In fact, the more than $4.9 billion in assets under court and guardian control in Texas was a motivating factor in the state’s reform efforts. Establishing the arrangement for an adult loved one requires strong evidence of mental or physical impairment.
Myth 2: Guardians control every aspect of a ward’s life
Another myth is that guardians can control every aspect of the person’s life that they take care of. Actually, the court determines the scope of guardianship that would serve the ward’s best interests. For example, guardians might have input into decisions about living arrangements, marriage, medical choices and finances only as the court grants each responsibility.
Myth 3: Wards have no rights or resources
Persons who require the assistance of a guardian do not lose all of their rights under the provision. Texas law even provides a Ward’s Bill of Rights to protect their freedoms.
Myth 4: Guardianships remain permanent
Guardianships can be permanent, but that varies. Those with improved conditions can even petition the courts for a restoration of their right to manage more of their own affairs.
Permanent guardianships often result from progressive mental or physical disabilities. However, short-term mental incapacitation might only require temporary guardianship. Periodic reassessments can verify when guardianship is still necessary.
Understanding guardianship helps a family to make sound decisions about its estate and protect heirs and beneficiaries. By getting the facts straight, a family can avoid unnecessary mistakes when managing affairs.