Legal Guardianship in Colorado

By David Carnes

A guardian is appointed by the court to make personal decisions on behalf of another person, known as the ward, when that person is incapable of making decisions for himself. A ward may be a minor child or an incapacitated adult. In Colorado, the laws governing guardianship are found in Title 15, Article 14 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Reasons for Guardianship

In Colorado, a guardian may be appointed for a minor child if the child's parents are dead or in prison, if they cannot afford to provide for his basic needs, if they are abusive or if they cannot offer a safe home environment. A guardian may be appointed for an adult if the adult is incapacitated. Under Colorado law, a person is incapacitated if he is unable to effectively make or communicate decisions regarding his health, safety or personal care. An incapacitated individual is often one with severe mental disabilities.

Appointment

A person 21 years of age or older may seek guardianship over a minor child or an incapacitated adult by filing a guardianship petition in the district court of the county of the ward's residence and paying the requisite filing fee. If the ward lives in Denver, the petition must be filed with the probate court. If the proposed ward is an incapacitated adult, the petition must be accompanied by medical evidence establishing the incapacity. A "court visitor," or investigator, is appointed by the court to evaluate the proposed ward and the fitness of the proposed guardian before issuing a recommendation to the court. The court then convenes a hearing and rules on the guardianship petition.

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Guardian Authority and Responsibility

A guardian must make day-to-day personal decisions for the ward. The court may grant the guardian broad or narrow authority over the ward depending on the ward's needs. A guardian may decide where the ward lives; provide him with food, clothing and shelter; make medical decisions on his behalf; monitor and control his social life; and manage his finances if no conservator has been separately appointed. The guardian must submit annual reports to the court and obtain the court's permission before moving the ward out of Colorado.

Termination of a Guardianship

The guardianship of a minor child automatically terminates on his 19th birthday unless he is incapacitated. It may be terminated while he is still a minor if he marries, joins the military or becomes self-supporting. The guardianship of an incapacitated adult ends when he regains capacity. A court may terminate a guardianship at any time if it determines that termination would be in the ward's best interest.

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A temporary guardian's job is to provide short-term care for an individual referred to as a ward. Wards may be minor children or adults suffering from physical, emotional or mental limitations. Generally, a court appoints a temporary guardian. For example, if an adult has no close family members and suffers an incapacitating stroke, a probate judge has the power to quickly appoint a temporary guardian so as not to delay the patient's critical care decisions. The lengths of appointments and legal oversights for temporary guardians vary based on state laws. For example, in Maine, appointments expire after 6 months. In Oregon, appointments expire in 30 days, but may be extended 30 more days upon a showing of good cause.

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A guardian is a party who undertakes legal responsibility and authority for the care of someone else, known as a ward. An adult can become a ward only if he is declared legally incompetent. If your parent is a victim of a disability that prevents him from meeting his basic needs, you may petition a court to appoint a guardian.

What Is Next When a Patient Has Alzheimer's & Cannot Sign a Power of Attorney?

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