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When Do Texas Courts Appoint Guardians?

Any number of situations can make parents unable to care for their children—through unexpected death, a serious accident involving brain damage or physical incapacity, or a prolonged terminal illness.  A guardianship is a judicial proceeding that appoints a person or entity with full or limited authority to take care of the child or for an adult.  Texas courts may appoint a guardian for the care of a minor child under 18 years old, and also for an incapacitated adult—someone who is incapable mentally or physically of caring for themselves.  In either case, the court refers to the minor or incapacitated person as a ward. The Texas Bar publishes a Guardianship pamphlet that explains the two main types of guardianship:

  • Guardianship of the estate. The guardian oversees the ward’s property and finances, such as insuring property, paying taxes, managing bank accounts, investments, rental property, family businesses inherited by the ward, etc.  Most actions that a guardian of the estate takes requires court orders. Guardians are responsible for filing annual reports to the court that contains the accounting for the estate.
  • Guardianship of the person. The guardian of the person has control over the care and custody.  Such guardians have physical possession of the ward and make decisions about the ward’s medical, psychological, and surgical treatment along with decisions about education and religious upbringing.

A full guardian would have duties of the estate and of the person, therefore managing the person’s well-being and finances.  When the court assigns two guardians, each is a limited guardian with authority only over their specific responsibilities. Parents of minor children can designate a guardian or guardians as part of their will, but such position would have to be confirmed by a Texas court.  A Texas family lawyer who also handles wills and probate can offer valuable guidance about establishing a guardianship.

Sometimes people confuse the term Guardianship with Conservatorship.  Divorce cases and other family law cases in Family Court result in persons being awarded possession or visitation with a child. That is referred to as Conservatorship.  Guardianship is obtained through a Probate Court in the state of Texas and that is different than Conservatorship.  Speak with a Texas family lawyer to learn the differences between Guardianship and Conservatorship.

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Robert Reid McInvale
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Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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