Cedar Rapids Guardianship Attorneys

Most adults are expected to have the ability to care for themselves and manage their health and money on their own. Some people are more vulnerable, however, and need to have someone living with them to take care of them and help make decisions for them.

Usually, this applies to minor children, but it may also be necessary for someone who is disabled or is impaired by a mental or psychological condition. In these cases, a court may designate a legal guardian. The guardianship may be voluntary, or may be imposed by the court without the consent of the person they are to care for.

If you need to establish legal guardianship, you need a lawyer experienced in Iowa guardianship law to put together your case. The guardianship lawyers at Arenson Law Group, PC understand Iowa’s family and estate laws and can make sure you move forward with the strongest case possible. Call us today at (319) 363-8199 to schedule a free consultation.

Why You Need A Lawyer

A person’s freedom to make decisions for themselves is important, but when someone is unable to care for or make decisions for themselves, an appointed legal guardian can help care for that person and make crucial decisions for them.

There are complex rules for filing and being approved for legal guardianship in Iowa, and your proposed ward’s financial, medical or personal affairs may be complicated, as well. You need to present “clear and convincing evidence” that the proposed ward is not competent to handle their own affairs. A good lawyer can make sure that all of the necessary financial and medical documentation is in order and that no detail falls through the cracks so that your ward’s health and future are secure.

Why Hire Us?

Taking on a guardianship or a conservatorship of another person or their estate is a great responsibility. And having an experienced, qualified attorney by your side is essential to your success. Our attorneys are skilled in Iowa guardian and conservator law, and we can advise you on the complex personal, medical, and financial decisions you must make for your ward.

When you hire Arenson Law Group, PC, you gain a team of advocates who will guide you through the entire process. We care about the success of our clients, and we will work hard to make sure you and the person you are caring for are able to move into your new roles with as little stress and worry as possible.

Guardianship Explained

Adults make many decisions for themselves throughout their lives about their medical care, how to handle their finances, where they should live, and other important needs. Some people, because they are minors without parents or they have a severe mental or emotional disability, are unable to make competent decisions for their own care.

This person, known as a ward, may require the help of a guardian or conservator. This decision-making ability is not something that just anyone is allowed to take over without good cause, however, so a court ruling is required to transfer this power away from one person to a legally designated person or corporation.

Guardianship vs. Conservatorship – In Iowa law, a guardian is a person or corporation appointed by a court to make personal decisions for a ward. A conservator is a person or corporation appointed by the court to make financial decisions for a ward. It is important to note that the words “guardian” and “conservator” may have different or even opposite legal meanings in other states.

Incompetence – A proposed ward is determined to be incompetent if a court finds them to be unable to make decisions for themselves, and that for this reason, there is a risk that they could harm themselves. A guardianship would be required if a proposed ward is unable to make safe personal decisions regarding things like food, shelter, or clothing, or to care for their own personal safety. A conservatorship would be needed if the proposed ward is unable to make or communicate decisions regarding their financial affairs.

Duties of a Guardian or Conservator

When you take over guardianship or conservatorship for a ward, you have a legal duty to make some or all decisions in a ward’s life. A “plenary” guardianship allows a guardian to take over all decision-making responsibilities, including medical decisions, personal care, counseling, and treatment. The court may set up a limited guardianship in cases where the ward is considered competent to make some of their own decisions.

Least restrictive alternative – It may be preferable to find an alternative to guardianship or conservatorship, if possible. Guardianships can require lengthy and costly proceedings, and are subject to regular court review. It’s important to understand that even though a person may make decisions for themselves that don’t make sense or that some view as incorrect does not necessarily mean they are incompetent to control their own life.

In a case where a person has some competence to make their own decisions but may require some help, there are alternatives to full guardianship or conservatorship that should be considered. These could include financial or medical powers of attorney, joint bank accounts, trusts, or advance health care orders, which would allow a person to control their own affairs while giving them help where needed. In this way, a person also has tools available in case they suffer greater incapacity later in life.

Minors – Parents are considered the natural guardians of their minor children. When the child reaches 18 years of age, they become an adult with full legal rights to make their own decisions. A person who is not the child’s parent may seek guardianship for the period before the child reaches adulthood. When the child becomes 18, the guardianship would end.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is someone determined to be incompetent?

Iowa law defines incompetency as “a decision-making capacity which is so impaired that the person is unable to care for the person’s personal safety or to attend to or provide for necessities for the person such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical care without which physical injury or illness may occur.”

The “functional limitations” of the person, or the condition of the person that limits them, must be considered when determining incompetency. The person may have a severe mental limitation such as brain damage, or they may have a disorder such as schizophrenia, which affects their ability to make decisions.

Courts consider three factors in making these determinations: decisional capacity, impairment, and functional capacity. Decisional capacity refers to a person’s ability to make decisions regarding their own needs. Impairment is the diagnosed disability that affects the person’s decision-making abilities. Functional capacity refers to a person’s ability to meet their own needs and how much assistance they require in making decisions.

Are there educational or certification requirements to become a guardian?

Iowa law doesn’t require a guardian or conservator to obtain any special education or certification, whether the guardian or conservator is a paid professional or is unpaid. The National Guardianship Association has developed performance standards and ethical guidelines, available at their website.

Do I need to live in the same state as my ward?

A guardian needs to live close to their ward. If your ward lives in Iowa, you should live in Iowa, as well. You need to have communication with them, and understand all of their physical, medical, and financial needs. You must be able to carry out all the duties the court assigns to you. The court may allow you to serve remotely as a guardian for good cause if there is also a co-guardian who is a resident of this state. You both may be able to share responsibilities for the benefit of your ward.

If I’m a parent, should I allow someone else to be my child’s guardian?

If neither parent is able to care for their minor or disabled child, it is possible to establish another person as the guardian. This may be a good choice if neither parent is available to make important decisions for things like medical treatment, for instance.

Other options should be considered first, however, as guardianship can be difficult to end and the guardian is not obligated to allow the parents to visit or to relinquish their guardianship later. If you want to end the guardianship before your child turns 18, you would need to file a petition to terminate the guardianship, which would have to be granted by the court.

Talk to an Arenson Law Group, PC Guardianship Lawyer Today

If you’re trying to establish a guardianship for someone you care about, you need an attorney trained in Iowa guardianship law. The family lawyers at Arenson Law Group, PC can help. Iowa guardianship law can be complex, and it is already very stressful to see to all the needs of another person.

Our top-notch legal staff can guide you through all the laws and financial decisions you need to make to ensure that your ward’s needs are taken care of. We’ve helped many clients in Cedar Rapids and across Iowa in the same situation as you. Call us at (319) 363-8199 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.