What is Guardianship?
Some people need help managing their daily affairs because of their age, a disease or an injury. If this happens, a court of law may appoint a guardian for them.
Guardian and ward are legal terms used to indicate the relationship between someone who protects another (the guardian) and the person being protected (the ward). In Texas, the process to appoint a guardian includes:
- Filing an application with a court
- Having a hearing before a judge
- Having a judge appoint a guardian, if one is needed
Because having a guardian takes away a person’s rights, it should be the last and the best choice to protect someone. Before asking a court to appoint a guardian, other options are usually tried first, such as:
- Finding someone to help the person pay bills and manage money
- Finding someone to help the person make decisions, including health care decisions
- Enrolling the person in available community services, including Medicaid programs
Once a guardian is appointed, it often becomes permanent. However, if things change significantly, a judge can decide a guardian no longer is needed.
To learn more about the guardianship process in Texas, read A Texas Guide to Adult Guardianship.
HHS Guardianship Services Program
The Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) has a Guardianship Services Program and becomes involved in guardianship in one of two ways:
- The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) refers adults or youth aging out of conservatorship to HHS that they think need a guardian.
- In certain limited circumstances, the court directly requests HHS to be a guardian.
For adults to be referred to HHS for guardianship, they must either have a disability, or be 65 or older, and a victim of abuse, neglect (including self-neglect) or exploitation.
For youth aging out to be referred to HHS for guardianship, they must be in Child Protective Services (CPS) conservatorship and appear to meet the adult definition of incapacity.
When someone is referred to the Guardianship Services Program, HHS:
- Determines if the person has indicators of diminished capacity
- Identifies less restrictive alternatives to guardianship
- Identifies other people or organizations that are willing, able and appropriate to serve as guardian
- When all least restrictive options have been exhausted — and no family member, interested party or alternate guardian is available — HHS may ask the court to be appointed as guardian.