Becoming a Legal Guardian in Montana

Becoming a Legal Guardian

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By WILLIAM RIDEG, Rideg Law Office, PLLC

Thinking of becoming a guardian for a loved one you know who needs help? To become a legal guardian in Montana, the interested party, first and foremost, must be an adult and capable of caring for the ward (the elderly person needing help). Does that fit you? Read on.

Typically, those who become a legal guardian are closest to the ward. They may be a spouse, relative, or close friend whom the ward has resided with for the past six months. An adult child of the ward may also serve as guardian. As well, a non-profit organization that provide legal guardianship services. A guardian may also be an outside individual, unrelated to the ward, whom is court-approved.

The court will consider a ward’s wishes as to who they feel should be appointed as a legal guardian. If the ward is unable to express a preference, the court will consider any previous expressions the ward may have made, including for a duly appointed durable power of attorney for medical treatment.

OpenING an Adult Guardianship Case

Anyone considering becoming a legal guardian for an adult in Montana must first file a petition with the court, describing why the person in question requires a guardian, along with information about the proposed guardian.

The petition also needs to provide the contact information for all involved family members.

After the petition filing, the court will appoint a physician to examine and interview the adult ward in question, to assess the need for guardianship. As well, the court will appoint a “visitor,” who will interview the doctor, the ward for whom the petition was filed, and the proposed guardian. The visitor will also visit the proposed residence where the ward will be living.

Both the physician and the visitor will report their findings to the court.

With the petition and reports filed and all affected parties notified, the proposed guardian will need to attend a court hearing to answer questions the judge will have about the proposed arrangement. If the judge approves the petition, the new guardian will receive a letter of guardianship from the Clerk of Court’s office. This letter will serve as proof of guardianship.

Compensation

A legal guardian may be compensated for the services they provide for the ward. The compensation depends on the nature of services provided, the time spent with the ward, and the amount of available funds. The court overseeing the legal guardianship will only approve legitimate and reasonable compensation.

Guardianship in place

Once the court decides who shall act as the legal guardian for the ward, the court also decides how much authority the legal guardian shall have, with each case individually decided as how best to address the specific needs of the ward.

When the court appoints a legal guardian, dependent upon the circumstances, the ward loses many of their rights associated with making decisions concerning where they live, their  health care and what happens to their personal property and real estate.

Official guardians must annually file reports to the court, providing updated information on the condition of the ward under their care.

When does a legal guardianship end?

A legal guardianship can end for several reasons. The current legal guardian may move away, or the court may deem the legal guardian is no longer acting in the ward’s best interests. In such cases, another legal guardian will be appointed.

Should the ward regain the ability to make decisions on their own, and the court determines that the ward is acting with their full capacities, the legal guardianship will expire. Naturally, should the ward pass away, the legal guardianship will also expire. MSN

If you have questions about legal guardianship, you may contact Rideg Law Office at 406-626-1500 for further explanation and guidance.

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