A guardianship gives an individual the legal authority to provide care for another person or property. In Oklahoma, guardians may be appointed for either children or adults. Probate courts oversee guardianships, and the appointments may be part of estate planning or needed due to a person becoming unable to care for themselves.
Guardianships of minors
Minor guardianships require a petition by a close family member. A guardianship may be granted if the court finds the child’s parents unfit or unable to provide care. However, not all minor guardianships are due to parental neglect or abuse. Some parents choose guardians for their children as part of their estate planning. This protects minor children in case the parents become ill or die.
Guardianships for adults
Three types of adult guardianships exist. An individual may be a guardian for:
• A person
• Person and estate
Reasons for adult guardianships
A probate court may follow the estate planning wishes of an adult and appoint a guardian to an adult after a stroke, accident or illness leaves them incapacitated. Both trusts and wills allow you to name someone as a potential guardian in case you are no longer able to care for yourself or your finances.
In other cases, courts establish guardians to protect adults with mental or physical impairments. Adult children or loved ones may petition the court for guardianship of adults.
Length of guardianship
For minors, guardianship ends at age 18. For adults, the ending date depends on the circumstances of the guardianship. Temporary guardianships may last for as little as 90 days. Other guardianships may last until the protected adult dies.
Role of estate planning
While many people think of their assets when planning a will or trust, estate planning also allows you to control who will become your guardian or your children’s guardian if you become incapacitated. If you do not take these steps, you allow the decision to rest with the court.