When the Associated Press unveiled a ground-breaking series on the controversies surrounding guardianships in 1987 several states enacted reforms on guardianships. The Oklahoma Guardianship and Conservatorship Act was enacted to protect the rights of and welfare of children and incapacitated adults throughout the state of Oklahoma. Guardianships, however, still can often be highly complex and sensitive legal arrangements, making it all the more important that you consult with an experienced Tulsa guardianship lawyer. The reputable Oklahoma law firm of Fry & Elder understands the urgency and delicacy with which guardianships demand and provides the answers below to some of the more frequently asked questions associated with guardianships involving minors and incapacitated adults.
What Does a Guardianship Entail?
The guardian, appointed by the court, will oversee the care and property of the child or incapacitated adult. The person under the care of the guardian is called a “ward.” A guardian of a minor will help ensure that the child’s daily needs, including medical, clothing and food, are tended to and met.
How is a Guardianship Gained?
Only the court can appoint someone to be a guardian. The process begins with the prospective guardian providing the necessary paperwork, background checks and court fees. Adults can only be designated as wards if they are designated as incapacitated. For an adult to be classified as incapacitated they generally must be:
- Physically incapacitated
- Mentally ill
- Developmentally disabled
It is important to remember and know going into the legal process that a guardianship is never assumed and that the welfare of the ward is put ahead of everything else by the courts. For a more complete and thorough definition of the state of Oklahoma’s definition of an incapacitated person consult Title 30 of the Oklahoma Statutes (30 O.S. 1-111).
What are the Types of Guardianships in Oklahoma?
Special guardian: Someone who is typically appointed as a guardian because of emergency or high-risk situations. Guardianships of this nature usually do not exceed more than 30 days, but those special guardians may use the time to work toward becoming a court-appointed guardian.
Limited guardian: Someone who has limited power over the ward and or the property of the ward
General guardian: Someone who has been appointed by the court as the guardian of person and their property.
Do I Qualify as a Guardian?
Under Oklahoma state law there is an order of preference in appointing guardians that begins with the parents. However, this is not always in the best interest of the child or adult. Those 14 and older are able to nominate his or her guardian, which usually ranks first on the preference list. As indicated in 30 O.S. 1-111, the rest of the list generally goes as follows:
- The current guardian or limited guardian is appointed by a court in another jurisdiction where the incapacitated or partially incapacitated person resides;
- The person nominated by the will or other writing of a deceased parent, spouse or adult child that was serving as the guardian or limited guardian of the subject of the proceeding;
- the spouse of the subject of the proceeding;
- an adult child;
- a parent;
- a sibling;
- a person, approved by the court, with whom the subject of the guardianship was living for more than six (6) months.
Why the need for an Experienced Tulsa Guardianship Lawyer?
As the above text conveys, Oklahoma guardianships can be complex in nature. They require the insight and knowledge of a proven Tulsa guardianship lawyer who is familiar with the process. Fry & Elder’s Kirsten Bernhardt focuses much of her practice on guardianships and has had a decorated career trying cases in front of both juries and the bench. Bernhard once won a judgement in excess of $10 million from Coca-Cola and she has a background in both family and criminal.
Bernhardt, along with Fry & Elder’s other attorneys have helped lead the firm to national recognition. The U.S. News & World Report has placed the firm on its esteemed Best Law Firms List every year since 2014, and Robert G “Hap” Fry Jr. also was named Lawyer of Year for Family Law in Tulsa by Best Lawyers®, while firm trial lawyers M. Shane Henry, Aaron D. Bundy and T. Luke Barteaux were each selected as SuperLawyers® Rising Stars™. Contact Fry & Elder today to speak with an accomplished Tulsa guardianship lawyer.