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Temporary Guardianship: When and Why It Makes Sense

If you live long enough, you learn that life never goes as planned. Things happen, and you have to adjust.

So, while we never plan to get into an accident or suffer a medical emergency, when it happens, we need to know what comes next.

In most cases, if you don’t already have legal documents in place, like a power of attorney, then your family members may need to apply for temporary guardianship to make decisions for you until you recover.

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal arrangement where a court appoints a person or entity to make decisions for someone (ward) who cannot make those decisions themselves.

It can be used to temporarily or permanently obtain control over a person’s personal or financial affairs, and because of this, it’s typically a last resort.

There are three main types of guardianship in North Carolina:

  1. Guardianship of the person: Responsible for making personal decisions about the ward’s health, safety, and welfare.
  2. Guardianship of the estate: Manages the ward’s financial affairs, including assets and property.
  3. General guardianship: Assumes the ward’s personal and financial decision-making responsibilities (person and estate).

If granted, guardianship strips nearly all decision-making rights away from the ward and passes them entirely to the guardian. While this may be the only solution in some cases, it won’t and shouldn’t be the case for everyone.

This is why it’s so important to carefully consider whether full guardianship is truly needed. Our guardianship attorneys can evaluate your family situation to determine if guardianship is appropriate. We may be able to find other solutions that provide the care needed while still giving your loved one a voice in their own matters.

How Long Does Guardianship Last?

Guardianship can be temporary or permanent in North Carolina, depending on each person’s needs.

Temporary (interim) guardianships are generally granted for 45 days, with the possibility of extension if necessary.

Temporary guardianship may also end in other ways, including:

  • Termination by court order — The court may terminate the temporary guardianship if it determines the arrangement is no longer necessary or in the ward’s best interests.
  • Replacement by permanent guardianship — If the need for guardianship persists beyond the temporary period, the court may establish a permanent guardianship to provide ongoing support for the ward.
  • Restoration of rights to the ward — If the ward regains the ability to make decisions on their own, the court may restore their rights and end the temporary guardianship.

The purpose of temporary guardianship is to provide immediate protection and support for the ward until a judge can establish a more permanent solution.

When Temporary (Interim) Guardianship May Be Necessary

There are several situations where temporary guardianship may be necessary to ensure a person’s welfare.

Incapacitation of an Adult Due to Illness or Injury

If an adult becomes suddenly incapacitated and cannot make decisions, the courts may appoint a temporary guardian to manage their personal and financial affairs until the person recovers or the family establishes a permanent guardianship.

Absence of Parents or Legal Guardians for a Minor Child

The courts may appoint an interim guardian to care for a child when the minor’s parents or legal guardians are temporarily unavailable due to military deployment, hospitalization, or other reasons.

Pending Guardianship Case

The guardianship process can take time. Temporary guardians are sometimes appointed while the court case for permanent guardianship is pending to avoid delays in critical decision-making.

Other Short-term Situations That Require a Guardian

Temporary guardianship can be helpful in several other circumstances where an individual needs immediate support and decision-making assistance for a limited time.

How to Get Temporary Guardianship in North Carolina

You must follow these steps to obtain temporary guardianship in North Carolina:

  1. File a petition: Submit a request for temporary guardianship to the Clerk of Superior Court in the ward’s county.
  2. Provide evidence: Present proof demonstrating the need for a temporary guardian, such as medical documentation or statements from relevant parties.
  3. Attend a court hearing: The court will schedule a hearing to review the petition and determine if temporary guardianship is necessary.
  4. Receive Letters of Guardianship: If the court grants temporary guardianship, it will issue Letters of Guardianship, which serve as legal proof of the guardian’s authority.

Keep in mind that this is just an overview – getting guardianship is anything but straightforward, but our guardianship attorneys in Cary, NC, are here to lead the way. We have extensive experience with guardianship cases and will advocate for the best interests of your loved one every step of the way.

Rights and Responsibilities of a Temporary Guardian

Temporary guardians have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the ward within the scope of their appointments.

However, power is more limited compared to a permanent guardian.

If appointed, an interim guardian’s main responsibilities are:

  1. Following the powers and duties specified by the court order based on the respondent’s needs.
  2. Acting in the respondent’s best interests within that scope.
  3. Posting a bond and filing accounts with the court if granted authority over the respondent’s estate.

The interim guardian fulfills these temporary duties until a permanent guardianship can be established or is no longer required.

How Our Guardianship Attorney Can Help

When a loved one’s well-being is at stake, you need a guardianship attorney who truly understands what your family is going through.

Our team doesn’t just handle the legal paperwork – we provide personalized support through this process exploring all options so you can feel confident your loved one’s dignity and rights are protected.

We help you by:

  1. Determining the need for guardianship: Our attorneys can assess whether temporary guardianship is necessary and explore alternative solutions.
  2. Assisting with the temporary guardianship process: From filing the petition to representing you in court proceedings, guardianship lawyers guide you through every step.
  3. Providing ongoing legal support: As an interim guardian, you will have plenty of legal questions or challenges. Our lawyers provide ongoing counsel to ensure you fulfill your responsibilities effectively.

We know that the guardianship process is difficult. The constant paperwork and having to make deeply personal decisions about your loved one’s future care is overwhelming. But you don’t have to go through this alone. Our guardianship team will listen to your family’s situation and give you honest guidance every step of the way.

So, before you get buried in the bureaucracy, schedule a discovery call with our team.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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