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Top Legal Questions About Guardianship

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 23, 2016 10:13 AM

A legal guardian is someone appointed by a court to make important life decisions on behalf of another person. That person is often is child, elderly, or otherwise incapacitated who is unable to make those decisions on their own.

Guardianships can be complicated, depending on the circumstances under which they are established, and can include decisions from simple life necessities like food and clothing to more complex medical or financial choices. Here are some of the biggest questions concerning guardianships, along with some helpful answers, from our archives.

1. What Is Guardianship of a Child? The Legal Battle Over Michael Jackson's Kids

After the King of Pop passed away, his mother was named temporary legal guardian of his children, giving her the legal authority to act on the children's behalf until they reach the age of 18. A guardian has the power to make decisions related to education, health care, and finances, and is appointed by a court to serve in the child's best interests.

2. When Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?

If a child needs a court-appointed guardian, that usually means that either both parents have died, or that their parental rights have been terminated. The determination to terminate parental rights is also made in a child's best interests, and can be based on evidence of severe abuse or neglect, chronic drug use or alcohol dependence, long-term mental illness, or abandonment.

3. What Is a Conservatorship? 5 Basic Questions

In some states, a guardianship and a conservatorship are two names for the same thing. In others, guardianships refer to the authority to manage the affairs of minors, while conservatorships are put in place for adults. And some states differentiate between the two based on the types of decisions being made: guardians make life and medical choices, while conservators make financial ones.

4. Legal How-To: Becoming a Guardian

If you're wondering how a guardianship is created, this step-by-step guide can walk you through the basics. From petitioning the court to proving the need for a guardian, and how an experienced family lawyer might help, here's everything you need to know.

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