Sometimes people are not able to care for themselves and see to their own basic needs due to physical or mental incapacity. When a person is not able to care for him or herself, another person may petition the court to appoint a guardian to oversee the person's care. Texas law clearly defines the responsibilities of and limitations on these guardianships. Those seeking court authority to act as the guardian of another should understand the limits of guardianship and some alternatives to guardianship that may be appropriate.

Limits on Guardians' Powers and Responsibilities

When the court appoints a person guardian for another, the guardian is responsible for ensuring that the ward's living and medical needs are met to the fullest extent possible given the ward's resources. The guardian also must file annual reports with the court and must get court permission to take many actions regarding the ward. A guardian's powers and responsibilities are limited in the following ways:

  • A guardian cannot prevent his or her ward from making poor choices.
  • A guardian is not responsible for any illegal activities the ward does.
  • A guardian is not personally responsible for supplying the ward with money for living expenses or for paying the ward's debts.
  • A guardian does not supervise the ward at all times.
  • A guardian may not put a ward in a mental hospital or force a ward to take medications.
Alternatives to Guardianships in Texas

Guardianships are not appropriate in all cases where people need some supervision or assistance. Alternatives to guardianships exist that may be more suitable for a person's needs, such as:

  • Money management programs to help a person with paying bills
  • Setting up joint checking accounts to assist with financial management
  • Designating a representative payee for government benefits
  • Setting up documents such as medical powers of attorney and living wills
  • Accessing community resources such as home-delivered meals and transportations services
  • Medicaid programs for assisted living communities and home-care attendants

Making the decision to establish a guardianship for a loved one can be difficult. Sometimes, even when a person needs help managing his or her affairs, a guardianship is not the right fit for the person's needs. If you are considering a guardianship, contact an experienced elder law lawyer who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.

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