In Special Needs News

Young woman with Down syndrome outdoors with female guardian.While a guardian can support the protected person by making important decisions, in some cases, an individual may wish to change or dissolve the arrangement.

The ward, their family, or other involved people might feel that the guardian is not doing a good job. They may then petition the court for the removal of the guardian, replacing them with another person.

In other cases, they might think guardianship is no longer appropriate. For instance, if the ward regains the ability to make personal or financial decisions, the guardian’s role may become obsolete. In some cases, the protected person or another individual asserts that guardianship was never needed. A less restrictive option, such as supported decision-making, could be a better fit.

Removing a guardian and terminating guardianship both require the court’s involvement. Ultimately, the court decides whether to replace the guardian or disband the guardianship completely, restoring the rights of the person subject to the arrangement.

Reasons for Removing a Guardian

The court can remove the guardian for several reasons.

  • When guardians fail to perform their duties, the court can expel them. For instance, state laws require that guardians file annual reports with the court, describing the protected person’s condition, living situation, and regular activities, and summarizing the guardian’s contact with the ward. When guardians fail to inform the court on a regular basis, the court can remove them.

  • The court can also remove guardians who act improperly, such as those who abuse the individuals under their care. The state can also charge them with a crime when there is evidence of abuse.
  • Other grounds for removal include misusing the ward’s income and assets, commingling funds, and failing to manage the protected person’s estate appropriately.
  • Disputes between guardians and those they protect are common. In some cases, the guardian and the ward might mutually agree that another person would better fit the role. Voluntarily, the guardian might agree to step down.

Petitioning the Court

To request the removal of a guardian, the ward, the guardian, or a person affected by the guardianship can petition the court. Then, the court will hold a hearing and issue a decision.

When the court replaces a ward’s guardian, it maintains that the individual under the guardianship still cannot make personal or financial decisions independently and needs the protection of a responsible person.

In contrast, the court ends the guardianship altogether when it finds that the ward can make independent choices.

Ending the Guardianship

The court terminates guardianship when it finds that the person no longer needs a guardian because of a change in circumstances.

For example, the court might find that a person who does not have an active power of attorney for health care needs a guardian when the person becomes incapacitated due to a severe illness. If an individual becomes unconscious or cannot communicate for an extended period, a trusted person might need to make medical decisions and handle money on the incapacitated person’s behalf. When the ward’s health improves such that they can express their wishes, assistance with decisions is no longer necessary.

In other instances, courts end guardianships by finding that the control was never appropriate. Sometimes, individuals feel that a court’s initial decision to order guardianship was wrong and challenge it. They can file a petition for termination with the court that oversees the case. Following a hearing, the court decides whether to terminate the guardianship, change its terms, or maintain the arrangement.

To learn more about ending guardianship or removing a guardian, speak to an attorney.

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