How Much Does a Guardianship Lawyer Cost?
by Francesca Toledo, J.D.
When an individual cannot make decisions on their own, they may need a guardian to take over and lend a helping hand. Establishing a guardianship requires involvement from the court, and it is often easiest to hire a guardianship lawyer to represent you.
Guardianship lawyer fees vary greatly depending on your situation. Full representation from a guardianship lawyer usually starts with a $1,500 to $3,000 retainer and separate hourly costs. Unbundled Legal Help attorneys also offer pay-as-you-go limited services, which can be an effective way to move your case forward. We can connect you today with a local guardianship attorney in your area.
What Is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal process in which a guardian is appointed to watch over and protect an individual who is not able to take care of themselves.
Once appointed, a guardian is able to take over decision making for the ward—the individual for whom the guardian has been appointed. The guardian is then able to make important decisions pertaining to the ward and their affairs.
The guardian’s scope will depend on the type of guardianship in place and the powers granted by the court.
Types of Guardianships and Guardians
The type of guardianship needed, and the duties of a guardian, depend upon who the guardianship is being filed for.
A guardian in an adult guardianship will take over decision making for an adult who is deemed to be incapacitated or disabled. The court will need proof that the protected individual is in a state that they are unable to take care of themselves. Guardians may be appointed to take over entirely, or the guardianship may be limited, for example, only giving the guardian power over healthcare decisions.
Adult guardianships can include guardianship of the person or guardianship of the estate.
A guardian makes decisions over the individual’s personal affairs. These decisions pertain to the health and wellbeing of the ward. The guardian should always consider the ward’s desires.
When it’s a guardianship of the estate, the guardian becomes responsible for the ward’s personal property. The guardian will take care of the real property, distribute assets, and do whatever is necessary to take care of the ward’s estate.
Many circumstances arise whereby a child needs a guardian. Whatever the case, a child under the age of 18 may need a guardian to help make important decisions and help guide and support them.
Similar to adult guardianships, minor children may also need a guardianship of the person or guardianship of the estate.
When a child is under a guardianship of the person, the guardian will protect the minor and make important decisions regarding their health and education. The guardian will also likely have physical custody of the child.
In special circumstances, it is possible for a minor to need a guardian for their estate. Some children may have a significant amount of property or assets, and the guardian will protect those assets and make financial decisions while the child is a minor. Once the minor reaches 18, they no longer need a guardian.
Guardian ad Litem
A Guardian ad litem represents a minor child when the child is involved in court proceedings. These guardians are often appointed during divorce cases, but a minor may also need a guardian for probate matters or in case of abuse or neglect. Guardians ad litem serve as the child’s advocate while in court, representing their best interests.
A temporary guardianship, as the name implies, is a guardianship for a short amount of time. This type of guardianship may be needed when, for example, a child’s parents are unable to care for them for a short period of time or when an individual needs help with decision making temporarily.
An emergency guardianship is similar to a temporary guardianship. In an emergency guardianship, a guardian is appointed for an emergency situation. For instance, if a child is in imminent danger or someone has a medical emergency, the court can grant an emergency guardianship.
Guardianships typically require a hearing, but in some cases, the court may grant the guardianship even without a court proceeding.
What Can a Guardian Do?
A guardian is expected to do certain things. When an individual is appointed as guardian, they assume the responsibility given to them, and they must follow through.
Guardianship tasks depend on the type of guardianship. A guardianship over a person may include these items:
- Providing care and support to the ward
- Making decisions regarding the ward’s healthcare and living arrangements
- Providing a safe space for the ward if the guardian has legal custody
- Visiting the ward if they are living elsewhere
- Ensuring the ward has all necessities
- Following up and filing reports with the court regarding how the ward is doing
For a guardianship over the estate, tasks might include these items:
- Protecting and maintaining real property
- Getting property appraisals
- Making financial decisions
- Handling income of the estate
- Distributing assets
- Getting court approval before selling assets
- Filing reports with the court
Guardians play an important role in their wards’ lives. They should be ready to take on the role and all it entails.
A guardian can resign at any time if they feel they cannot handle the responsibility. An individual may also reject the appointment.
Who Is Eligible To Be a Guardian?
Guardians are typically those closest to the individual needing a guardian. Preference may be given to the person’s parents, children, or spouse. Still, the guardian does not have to be related to the individual.
If no one volunteers to be a guardian, the court may appoint one. Many states have professional guardians the court can appoint if needed as well.
If more than one person wishes to be a guardian, they may petition the court to be granted the opportunity to be co-guardians.
State law usually dictates who cannot serve as a guardian. This often includes people with the following characteristics:
- Is incompetent or disabled
- Is a minor
- Has a felony conviction
- Has committed certain violent crimes, including domestic violence
Even if the court deems someone suitable to be a guardian, it is common for the court to require the individual to attend court-ordered training.
How Long Does a Guardianship Last?
Guardianship duration depends on the type of guardianship the court grants and whether the court imposes a set duration.
An adult guardianship may last until the ward recovers from their incapacity or disability or until the ward passes away.
Guardianship of a minor normally ends when the child reaches the age of 18. Otherwise, it may end if the court deems it no longer necessary, or with guardianships of the estate, until the assets are depleted.
Temporary and emergency guardianships are regularly short term unless the court decides a longer-term guardianship is required given the circumstances.
How Can a Guardianship Lawyer Help?
You can establish a guardianship without the help of a lawyer, but an attorney can make the process much easier. A guardianship lawyer can assist you with these points:
- Paperwork for the guardianship
- Filing documents with the court
- Court appearances
- Appointing the right guardian
A guardianship lawyer in your area is also familiar with the local law, benefiting your case greatly.
Guardianship cases can be challenging. A guardianship lawyer can give you peace of mind knowing your case is in the best hands.
How Much Does a Guardianship Lawyer Cost?
Every guardianship lawyer handles their fees differently. For the most part, full representation with a guardianship lawyer can start from $1,500 to $3,000 and continue with hourly fees as needed.
This will depend on the type of guardianship and the amount of work your attorney needs to put in to get the best result.
Guardianships can be costly. Establishing a guardianship entails a considerable amount of court fees. Fortunately, an unbundled lawyer may provide you with the legal help you need while saving you some money.
An unbundled lawyer is like any other lawyer. The only difference is how they manage their billing. If you are willing to handle a majority of your guardianship case, your unbundled lawyer can be on hand to take over the most critical portions. Whether you need assistance with a court appearance or drafting important paperwork, your attorney will be available to lend a helping hand along the way.