A guardianship in Iowa is a legal proceeding that designates an individual (called a guardian) to care for another person (called a protected person). To establish a guardianship for an adult in Iowa, your family will need the advice and services of a Cedar Rapids guardianship attorney.

It is never easy when a family member is no longer able to make personal decisions. In such situations, it may be necessary to establish a legal guardianship. A guardianship is appropriate when an adult is no longer competent or able to make his or her own personal decisions.

Guardianships in Iowa differ from conservatorships because a guardianship involves the care, living arrangements, and health care decisions for a protected person, while a conservator oversees only the financial and business affairs of a protected person.

When should you name a guardian for an adult family member? What does guardianship entail? What if a family’s designation of an adult guardian faces a legal challenge? If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of adult guardianship in Iowa, these questions will be answered.

When Is Adult Guardianship Appropriate?

A guardianship for an incompetent, disabled, or incapacitated adult may be established in Iowa when the adult needs daily care and the caregiver needs more authority – to do the job right – than a power of attorney or an advance directive for health care provides.

Sometimes an adult may seek a guardianship voluntarily. In other cases, the adult may dispute the need for a guardianship. But whether an adult guardianship petition is or isn’t contested, the guardianship process in Iowa can be complicated and challenging for everyone who’s involved.

What Happens at a Guardianship Hearing?

Because a guardianship in this state deprives an adult of the legal ability to make important decisions, the courts in Iowa carefully consider a number of factors before deciding whether to establish an adult guardianship or continue an adult guardianship.

When an Iowa court receives a petition for adult guardianship, a hearing is conducted to ensure that the adult’s rights are not violated. Clear, convincing evidence must be introduced to prove that the adult is incompetent, disabled, or incapacitated and requires guardianship.

The court will hear testimony from the petitioner, the prospective guardian, and others who may have an interest or be affected by the guardianship. If the judge agrees that a guardian is needed, that judge will then designate the prospective guardian or another qualified individual.

How Are Protected Persons Protected?

A guardian may be necessary to prevent or to detect neglect, abuse, or exploitation, and to help improve the quality of life for an incompetent or disabled adult. Yet – as we’ve learned from disturbing news stories – some guardians take advantage of those they were trusted to protect.

In Iowa, a number of laws have been put in place to protect adults who require guardianship and to prevent the wrong people from becoming adult guardians. Prospective guardians must provide an Iowa court with comprehensive details regarding their experience, backgrounds, and finances.

The legal hurdles for establishing a guardianship and becoming a guardian are high in Iowa, so families and prospective guardians should have the advice and services of a Cedar Rapids guardianship lawyer as early as possible in the process and before taking any legal action.

How Will an Adult Guardianship Attorney Help?

Your Cedar Rapids guardianship attorney can help you prepare a petition for guardianship and file it with the court on your behalf. Your attorney can also make sure that the prospective guardian meets Iowa’s stringent requirements for becoming an adult’s legal guardian.

A guardianship attorney can also help you organize the protected person’s assets and financial affairs, help you establish a conservatorship if necessary, and help you develop a long-term guardianship and care plan for the protected person – a plan that works for everyone involved.

In Iowa, the guardians of adults are required to make regular reports to the court and to make occasional court appearances. Guardians must file an initial care plan, annual reports, and a final report upon the termination of guardianship duties.

What is Contested Guardianship?

As mentioned previously, sometimes an adult may voluntarily seek a guardianship for himself or herself. However, when a proposed guardianship is not voluntary, the adult may contest the guardianship in court with an attorney’s help.

Similarly, another interested adult who objects to the proposed guardianship or objects to the prospective guardian may contest the guardianship in court. Anyone who contests a guardianship must be ready to appear before a judge and to offer evidence in support of his or her objection.

A Cedar Rapids guardianship lawyer who routinely handles guardianships and conservatorships will understand that your family is going through a particularly challenging period of time and will guide and advise you and your family honestly, appropriately, and compassionately.

Should You Establish a Special Needs Trust?

Guardianships and conservatorships are handled by a number of lawyers in the Cedar Rapids area, but many of the attorneys who provide these services do not have extensive experience or knowledge in the fields of special needs and special needs planning.

If an incompetent, disabled, or incapacitated adult family member counts on your financial support, let an Iowa estate planning lawyer help you set up a special needs trust to care for that person after your death or after you are no longer able to provide the support that person needs.

A special needs trust can ensure that your loved one will always receive appropriate medical care, and the trust may also make that person eligible for food and housing programs and other benefits.

What Else Should Families Know?

Before you select a lawyer to establish a guardianship, a conservatorship, or a trust for an adult family member with special needs, ask a lawyer these questions, and get the answers you need:

  1.  What is your experience with guardianships and special needs planning?
  2.  What documentation should I bring to an initial consultation?
  3.  What fees will be required and how are those fees determined?

No one can predict what tomorrow may bring, so it’s never too early to plan for the future. Now is the time to contact an Iowa guardianship and estate planning attorney who can provide the affordable, innovative solutions that will protect your loved ones now and in the future.