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How does the temporary guardianship process work for adults?

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Guardianship is not something that just applies to children.

Indeed, a number of legal guardianship cases in Texas and elsewhere involve unmarried adults (or widows or widowers) who have become incapacitated or otherwise unable to take care of either themselves, their finances, or both. In some cases, it's uncertain how long a person will be incapacitated, but it seems as if it will be a temporary situation. For instance, if a person goes into rehab, they may not be reachable for a time, but will eventually emerge having been drug-free or alcohol-free for a significant period. If a person goes into a coma, that can last just a few days or can be a more significant period.

In those cases, a temporary guardianship might serve everyone best.

There are a few types of guardianships that can be sought in Texas - most of them being permanent. There's guardianship over the person, the estate, or both, and there are full and limited varieties. As we'll explore in a follow-up article coming soon on permanent guardianships, the bar for securing and then maintaining one is quite high.

A temporary guardianship, however, can be awarded relatively quickly with a lower threshold required to prove the need. As a matter of fact, within 10 days of submitting the application for temporary guardianship, a hearing is required to determine whether or not it should be granted.

Typically, a temporary guardianship may not last for more than 60 days; though there are a few exceptions to this time limitation when the application for a temporary guardianship, for the conversion of a temporary guardianship to a permanent guardianship, or for a permanent guardianship is challenged and the court finds the appointment of a temporary guardian is necessary to protect the proposed ward or the proposed ward's estate.

In those circumstances, the term of the temporary guardian expires on the earliest of either the conclusion of the hearing challenging the application, the date a permanent guardian appointed by the court qualifies, or the ninth-month anniversary of the date the temporary guardian qualifies (unless the term is extended by court order).

A temporary guardianship is often used in emergency situations in which, according to the Texas Human and Health Services Commission's A Texas Guide to Adult Guardianship, "there is substantial evidence the person in question may be incapacitated, imminent danger to the person or the person's estate, and probable cause indicating the person in question or the person's estate requires an immediate appointment of a guardian." While incapacitation doesn't need to be conclusively proven to win temporary guardianship, the above criteria still creates a threshold that could benefit from an experienced lawyer's knowledge.

The imminent danger to the person or estate can be in the form of a caregiver or a relative who has been entrusted to care for the person in question-for instance, if the caregiver is stealing money from an incapacitated person's bank account, and you're a relative who wants to intervene, temporary guardianship can be a way to do it.

It's also important to note that temporary guardianship can be a first step to permanent guardianship-and it can certainly operate that way. It's best to consult with a probate lawyer-preferably one experienced in adult guardianship cases-to know how best to approach a situation before delving in.

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