It’s Time to Get a Guardianship – What do I do?

by Matthew Carrucci — Mar 7, 2024

You’ve just heard the term “Guardianship.” Maybe from a school. Maybe from a hospital. Maybe from the Social Security Administration or some other government agency. What is it, why do you need it, and how do you get it?

A Guardian is someone with authority to make medical, financial and other decisions for a disabled person. The Guardian works with hospitals, doctors, banks, government agencies, and schools, as if they were acting as the disabled person themself. The Guardian is given significant control, and is expected to do whatever is needed to protect the disabled person.

There are two common reasons for a Guardianship:

A Family Member is Too Old, Sick or Injured to Make Their Own Decisions – if a loved one is unable to make healthcare or financial decisions for themselves, someone needs to become their Guardian. Without the Guardianship, you might not be able to talk to doctors, pay bills, or get your loved one into Assisted Living.

A Child Turns 18 – Disabled or not, when a person turns 18, they are an adult. The parents can’t automatically make decisions for their disabled son or daughter. They can’t get Social Security Benefits, or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with their child’s school. Despite the obvious disability, a Guardianship is necessary.

Guardianships are obtained by filing a Petition with the Court of Chancery. The Petitioning family member is responsible for filing a series of paperwork, contacting and obtaining permission from other family members, meeting with a Court-appointed representative, and attending at least one Court hearing (usually by phone). It can take a few months, and it can get complicated, especially if there is a lot of financial or medical information to report.

You can try it on your own, but an attorney can make it much easier – and give you more time with your loved one and less time with the Court. If someone you love needs a Guardianship, start the process as soon as you’re able.

You can read about the Court of Chancery here.