Whether a death occurs in the family or the birth parents of a child are unable or unfit to care for him or her, some vulnerable people may not receive proper care or support they need to survive. In these situations, you may step in and obtain legal guardianship for the individual, promising to provide care and support through a court order. In the state of Indiana, becoming a guardian can be a complex process.
What Is Guardianship?
A guardian is a person who is responsible for taking care of minor children or adults who are unable to care for themselves. The child or adult under a guardian’s care is known as a ward or protected person.
Typically, courts identify guardians either through a will, court assignment, or petition by a member of the ward’s family. You can become a guardian through a court order, and you must answer to the court regarding the status of a person under your care.
Guardians have a number of responsibilities in Indiana, and the court will take into consideration whether or not you can take on these duties before granting you guardianship. You will need to provide the basic necessities of life for the protected person, including food, clothing, shelter, and necessary medical care. You will also need to ensure that the person under your care obtains the right education and support through his or her life.
As a guardian, you must also care for your ward’s property and personal affairs, reporting on the ward’s personal effects within 90 days of becoming a permanent guardian, or within 30 days of becoming a temporary guardian. Each year, you will need to file a report every two years after becoming a guardian to update the court on the status of the person under your care.
How Do You Qualify to Become a Guardian in Indiana?
When an Indiana court evaluates whether or not you are qualified to be a guardian of the ward in question, it will examine your qualifications against the other people who are willing and able to become a guardian.
Courts examine guardianship on a case by case basis, taking into consideration different factors based on the circumstances of the case and Indiana law. The main consideration is whether or not your guardianship will be in the best interest of the ward and his or her property, and whether or not you have the means to provide for the protected person. The court will also examine your relationship to the ward in question.
If the will of the ward’s previous guardian or parent named you as his or her preferred legal guardian, this does not mean that you will automatically become the guardian of the ward. However, the court usually honors this request unless you are unfit to become a guardian.
If the guardianship involves an incapacitated adult and the adult indicates that he or she wants you specifically to be the guardian, the court will take this into consideration.
If the guardianship involves a minor child over the age of 14 and the child indicates that he or she wants you to be his or her guardian, the court will also take this into consideration.
What Can a Guardian Not Do?
While you may have responsibility for the ward and the legal ability to make decisions regarding education, medical care, and other types of support, you will not have complete power over him or her. There are certain actions you cannot take without a court’s approval, and doing so can lead to serious legal consequences.
For example, you will not be able to move the ward out of Indiana or sell any of his or her property without permission. You will not be able to change the ward’s will or spend his or her money. In addition, you cannot terminate your guardianship unless one of the following circumstances occurs.
- The ward dies.
- The ward is a minor at the time of guardianship and reaches the age of 18.
- The ward is an incapacitated adult and regains capacity.
If you are considering becoming a guardian in Indiana, you will need to contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. Navigating the guardianship process can be difficult by yourself, and you will need an Indianapolis guardianship lawyer on your side to advocate for your needs and to help you understand your rights and responsibilities.