If someone you love in Arkansas struggles to handle their legal and financial affairs, obtaining a guardianship may be the best decision for them. However, some responsibilities come with this role, which means you should carefully consider your options. Probate courts scrutinize these cases and will require you to demonstrate a genuine need for a guardianship.
In this post, we will answer the following questions:
- What Is A Guardianship?
- What Are the Different Types of Arkansas Guardianships?
- How Do You Get Legal Guardianship in Arkansas?
- Who Can Be Appointed as a Guardian in Arkansas?
- What are the Responsibilities of Legal Guardians?
- Should I Hire an Arkansas Guardianship Lawyer?
If you need personalized legal advice, a guardianship lawyer at Milligan Law Offices can help you make specific decisions.
What Is A Guardianship?
Guardianships are a type of court order issued to an individual for authority over another person. The person given authority is called the guardian. The person for whom the guardianship is established is called the ward. Courts may issue guardianships over a person’s property, physical body, or both.
For a judge to issue a guardianship, the ward must be considered legally incapacitated. This designation typically signifies a debilitating physical, mental, or cognitive condition. Guardianships can also be established for wards with a chronic drug or alcohol addiction that causes them to mismanage their safety and legal issues. Financial mismanagement alone is generally not sufficient enough reason to issue a guardianship.
What Are the Different Types of Arkansas Guardianships?
Because they can only last for as long as necessary, Arkansas guardianships can be permanent or temporary. For example, if a family member is temporarily incapacitated, the court may issue guardianship powers for a period of time based on a doctor’s opinion. Permanent orders, on the other hand, are most common in matters involving minor-aged children.
Arkansas recognizes three types of guardianships:
- Person guardianships allow the guardian to make personal decisions on behalf of the ward. Authority includes handling care and living arrangement decisions.
- Estate guardianships give control of the ward’s financial and legal affairs. The estate guardian can act as the ward’s agent with full or limited authority as provided in the court order.
- Minor guardianships are a hybrid of guardianship over the person and the estate. While limited, children have an estate for receiving Social Security benefits or civil lawsuit damages.
Knowing the different types of Arkansas guardianships allows you to open your case by pleading for the right guardianship. If a judge believes that your demands are overreaching, they may deny your request. Since time matters in guardianship cases, make sure that you exercise the proper legal channels from the beginning.
How Do You Get Legal Guardianship in Arkansas?
You get a legal guardianship in Arkansas through a court order. Due to their seriousness, a judge must review the facts to decide if the ward is legally incapacitated and in need of a guardian. Families may find legal representation helpful during a guardianship case because proving one is a challenge without training or experience. Courts hold pro se filers, or individuals without a lawyer, to the same procedural standards as a licensed attorney.
The Arkansas Guardianship Process
While every case is unique, getting legal guardianship in Arkansas generally follows the same process as outlined below:
- File a Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person and Estate with the probate court. The form is available for download from this list on ARCourts.gov.
- Get a professional evaluation of the ward within six months of filing the petition.
- Attend the guardianship hearing with your attorney to prove your case.
- Receive the guardianship court order and review it with your legal team.
- Follow through on the court order’s provisions.
If a judge doesn’t issue a court order, your family has the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. This choice adds a tremendous amount of time to your case, making it imperative to work with an experienced attorney the first time around to help prevent costly legal mistakes.
Who Can Be Appointed as a Guardian in Arkansas?
In general, a close family member applies for a guardianship appointment. These family members are often a spouse, adult-aged child, parent, or grandparent. Arkansas statutes do not specifically state that you have to be related to the ward.
When requesting a guardianship appointment in Arkansas, there are four conditions the individual must meet. A guardian must be:
- A resident in the State of Arkansas
- At least 18 years of age
- Of sound mind
- Neither a convicted nor pardoned felon
You can change legal guardians in the future by going through the legal process again, but doing so requires additional time and money without any guarantees. If your family is struggling to appoint someone, your attorney can offer advice and guidance in this area.
What Are the Responsibilities of Legal Guardians?
Guardians do not have free reign when it comes to the ward’s property when they receive legal guardianship powers. Instead, they have a responsibility toward the ward that entails legal and financial maintenance.
For example, a guardian must receive court approval before taking the following actions:
- Denying the ward his or her rights to get a driver’s license
- Preventing doctors from attending to his or her medical needs
- Terminating parental rights and responsibilities over a minor
- Spending money on major asset acquisitions
- Closing or transferring ownership of a business to someone else
Courts account for violations by scheduling an annual hearing. At that point, a probate judge will review the guardian’s actions as compared to the court order. If he or she observes illegal guardian behavior, the ward or their estate can hold him or her legally accountable for their losses.
Should I Hire an Arkansas Guardianship Lawyer?
An Arkansas guardianship lawyer will become a tremendous resource throughout the entire court proceedings. The experts at Milligan Law Offices will help you prepare the initial court petition, observe fiduciary and legal obligations, and ensure asset protection. Furthermore, guardianships aren’t right for every situation, so we can advise you of your other options as well.
Call Milligan Law Offices for Legal Help
Learn more about your legal rights in Arkansas when facing a guardianship by reaching out to Milligan Law Offices. Call us at (409) 783-2213 or message us online for an initial consultation.