Appoint Legal Guardian Guide

Choosing to appoint a legal guardian to care for a family member or loved one is an emotional and difficult decision. It is crucial to have the support and guidance of a skilled attorney to help you navigate the complex legal process of attaining guardianship. At Arenson Law Group, PC, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help.

What Is a Legal Guardian?

Guardianship is a legal relationship in which an Iowa court appoints an individual (the guardian) to care for and make decisions for another person (the protected person) who cannot care for themselves due to age, incapacity, or status as a minor child. The guardian makes decisions about the protected person’s personal affairs, such as where they live, go to school, or receive medical care.

Iowa courts appoint legal guardians in the following situations:

  • Incapacitated adult. Adults can become incapacitated due to a sudden accident, illness, or aging. An Iowa court may appoint a guardian if the adult cannot decide about their own well-being.
  • Minor. Sometimes, neither parent can take care of a child due to death, disability, incarceration, or another reason. When this happens, another person, often a family member or friend, can ask the court for legal authority to care for the child. The legal guardian essentially assumes the role of the child’s parent, providing necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.

How Do I Become a Legal Guardian?

To become a guardian in Iowa, you must file a petition with the court explaining why guardianship is necessary. The court will hold a hearing to decide whether guardianship is necessary and determine what level of assistance the ward needs:

  • General or full (plenary). The guardian has the authority to make all personal care decisions on the protected person’s behalf, except those requiring prior court approval.
  • Limited. The protected person needs only some assistance in doing things, and the guardian has limited powers, as established by the court.

What Are the Guardian’s Responsibilities?

A legal guardian’s duties include:

  • Basic Needs. The guardian should ensure the protected person has food, shelter, health care, and society.
  • Care and Comfort. The guardian promotes the protected person’s care, comfort, and well-being.
  • Medical Attention. The guardian arranges for the protected person’s necessary medical care, counseling, and treatment.
  • Visitation. The guardian regularly visits the protected person and talks with care professionals.
  • Personal Items. The guardian takes reasonable care of the protected person’s clothing, furniture, vehicle, and other personal property. 

How Old Is a Legal Guardian?

To become a legal guardian, you must be at least 18 years old. Generally, any competent adult who does not have a serious criminal history and is a legal U.S. resident is eligible. A guardian appointed in Iowa must also usually reside in Iowa, though the court can waive this requirement.

All potential guardians must undergo a background check, including a criminal background check, a child abuse registry check, a dependent adult abuse registry check, and a sex offender registry check.

The Iowa Minor Guardianship Proceedings Act imposes additional constraints on guardians of minors and enhances the rights of biological parents.

How Long Do Legal Guardianships Last?

Adult guardianships typically end when the protected person dies. Courts may terminate guardianship early if the protected person is no longer incompetent or the guardianship is no longer necessary. Courts may also modify the guardianship to allow the protected person to make more decisions or to allow the guardian to make more decisions for the protected person.

For minor children, the guardianship usually lasts until the child reaches the age of eighteen (18), enters the military, or marries.

Courts must approve all requests to end the guardianship early.

What Is the Difference Between a Guardian and a Conservator in Iowa?

A guardian makes personal decisions, such as where the protected person lives and what medical, educational, or professional services they need. A conservator makes financial decisions. One person may be both guardian and conservator.

Can A Guardian Sign Legal Documents?

Appoint Legal Guardian GuideGuardians and conservators can generally sign legal documents on behalf of the protected person that are in the protected person’s best interests. Guardians and conservators should sign all documents as “guardian” or “conservator” on behalf of the protected person.

Contact Us Today for Guardianship Help

At Arenson Law Group, PC, we understand that appointing a guardian may be an emotional and complicated experience. If you have questions about guardianship in Iowa, our team of experienced attorneys is here to help. Call us today at (319) 363-8199 or schedule a confidential and consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

Written by James H. Arenson

Last Updated : March 7, 2024