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Guardian: A single word with many forms under Texas law

So, you are a relatively healthy adult in Houston. Maybe you have family, siblings or children. Maybe you don't. What difference does it make? You're healthy and you are fully capable of dealing with the day-to-day issues that we all confront. But what if all that changes?

It can happen suddenly. One minute, you may be driving down a busy downtown street. Out of nowhere, another vehicle t-bone's you and you suffer a traumatic brain injury. Less sudden, but no less catastrophic, you develop a degenerative neuromuscular disease and you slide into a state of incapacitation. If you don't have bases covered in your will or through a trust, appointing of a guardian may be required.

The word "guardian" has a basic definition. It means protector, defender or keeper. But under the law, a guardian can take a lot of different forms. Following is a short list of the types.

  • Guardian Ad Litem – This is someone who may be chosen by a court to protect the best interests of someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves. It might be a lawyer, but usually is not.
  • Guardian of the person – Someone named to this role is responsible for making decisions directly related to health and well-being of the named ward. Financial matters are not in this guardian's purview.
  • Guardian of the estate – Money matters are this individual's responsibility. If the ward has assets, the guardian of the estate manages them. That might mean selling some of them to generate needed funds. If bills need paying, this guardian handles them.

Because of the emphasis that the state places on maintaining individual independence and dignity, specific legal steps must be followed to establish guardianships. In some cases, guardianship might be deemed inappropriate, requiring some other alternative. To know what the options might be, it's important to consult an attorney with experience in this area of law.

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