Legal Guardianship in Colorado

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Legal Guardianship in Colorado

By Christine Funk, J.D.

In Colorado, legal guardianship is an umbrella term that covers two separate situations: guardianship over an incapacitated person and guardianship of a minor. Both of these involve the appointment of a responsible person to make decisions for the person subject to the guardianship. Colorado's Title 15, Article 14 of the Colorado Revised Statutes governs legal guardianship for those within the state.

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Understanding the Relevant Legal Terms

There are certain legal terms that are relevant when discussing guardianship. Due to the specific nature and precise meanings of the terms, some definitions are in order:

  • Court of jurisdiction: In Colorado, the relevant court of jurisdiction is the district court for the jurisdiction. The exception to this rule is the city and county of Denver, which uses the probate court for matters related to the affairs of decedents (minors) and protected persons.
  • Guardian: A person, at least 21 years of age, can qualify as a guardian of a minor or incapacitated person. This qualification may come from an appointment by a parent in a will or other legal document or from an appointment by the court. Guardianships may include limited, emergency , and temporary substitute guardianships. They do not include a guardian ad litem.
  • Incapacitated person: As a preliminary matter, under Colorado guardianship law, "incapacitated person" refers to people other than minors. An incapacitated person is "unable to effectively receive or evaluate information or both or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance."
  • Minor: Legally, a minor is a person who has not yet reached the age of 18 years and is not emancipated.
  • Parent: This term is limited to parents whose parental rights have not been terminated.
  • Ward: This term describes a person who has been appointed a guardian.

Reasons for the Appointment of a Guardian

When a person is unable to care for themselves as an adult, the court may appoint a guardian to make financial and/or medical decisions for the ward. Common situations that involve the appointment of a guardian include:

  • Extreme mental illness
  • Intellectual disability
  • Incapacity due to illness or accident, such as a coma
  • Reduced capacity, such as the result of a traumatic brain injury

For a minor child, a parent may appoint a guardian in their will. The guardianship comes into being upon the parent's death. If a parent is imprisoned or deployed overseas or is otherwise unable to parent their minor child themselves, they may also seek to appoint a guardian to make parenting decisions for the child.

Emergency guardianship may arise if a parent becomes incapacitated or is unreachable, and decisions need to be made about the health and welfare of the child. Ideally, the parents designate an emergency guardian in their estate plan. When a parent designates a guardian by power of attorney, regardless of the underlying circumstances (except in the case of the parents' death), this delegation of guardianship may be time-limited, depending on the circumstances. Courts can appoint a guardian if circumstances require a guardian and the parent has not designated one.

Termination of Guardianship

For incapacitated adults, guardianship terminates when the adult regains capacity. For minors, the guardianship terminates on the minor's death, adoption, or emancipation or the attainment of majority. The guardianship may also terminate if ordered by the court.

If you are considering legal guardianship for a loved one in Colorado, consider your options before making a determination. Understand the rules and regulations of appointing a guardian, and prepare for the future depending on your circumstances.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.