When Does a Contested Guardianship Occur? 

Book guardianship as part of family law concept.

If your loved one can no longer care for themselves, a guardianship can be crucial to ensure they are safe, and their daily needs are met. Not to be confused with a conservatorship — which only concerns financial decision-making — a Minnesota guardianship may be sought when a physical or mental disability prevents a person from making medical and personal decisions. While many guardianship cases are straightforward, there are various reasons these proceedings may be contested.

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal relationship in which an individual is appointed by the court as a guardian for someone who cannot make decisions for themselves. The incapacitated person in need of a guardian is also referred to as a “person subject to a guardianship” or a “ward.” The guardian has the responsibility to make a variety of personal decisions for their ward, such as those involving healthcare, living arrangements, and education.

Specifically, a person who is subject to a guardianship must either be a minor or a person who lacks the capacity to communicate their decisions or meet their own basic needs. A guardian’s duties can include providing for the care, comfort, and maintenance of their ward, including securing food, clothing, shelter, recreation, medical treatment, and rehabilitation if necessary. A guardian does not use their personal funds, but rather, funds from the estate (if authorized to do so under a power of attorney) of the person subject to the guardianship or government benefits when applicable as a social security representative payee.

Under Minnesota law, a guardianship terminates when the person subject to the guardianship has passed away, upon expiration of the guardianship set forth in the court order, or by an order of the court. A guardian also has the right to petition the court to be discharged from the guardianship.

Reasons to Contest a Guardianship

In order for a court to appoint a guardian, a judge must find by clear and convincing evidence that the person allegedly in need of one is legally incapacitated. A medical diagnosis is not enough on its own for a court to render a judgment. In uncontested cases, proof of incapacity is usually established by a physician's statement and brief testimony from a person knowledgeable about the need for guardianship — typically the petitioner who is requesting the guardianship. Based on the court’s determination regarding the person’s incapacity, a guardianship can be put in place temporarily or permanently.

Although a court-ordered guardianship can be the best scenario to ensure the welfare of someone who cannot make decisions for themselves, there may be situations in which a guardianship is contested. Common reasons for a contested guardianship can include the following:

  • The individual or an interested party believes a guardianship is not necessary
  • There is a less restrictive alternative than guardianship, such as a healthcare directive
  • The ward does not require a full guardianship, but rather a limited one
  • There is a dispute as to who will be appointed guardian
  • The guardian is not fulfilling their role

In addition, any person who has an interest in the welfare of the person subject to the guardianship may be entitled to file a petition to terminate the arrangement if the individual no longer needs a guardian. If circumstances have changed, the court may modify the guardian’s powers under the order, end the guardianship, or grant other relief that is in the best interests of the person subject to the guardianship. However, before a guardianship can be terminated, a court will be required to follow the same legal procedures as applying for a guardianship.

What Happens When a Guardianship is Contested?

A contested guardianship proceeding is often much lengthier and more costly than a typical guardianship hearing. In the event there is an objection to any aspect of the guardianship, both sides are permitted to take part in discovery. This process can include interviewing witnesses, conducting depositions, and collecting evidence that supports the party’s position.

In some cases, a physical or psychological examination of the person for whom the guardianship is sought may be required. Medical doctors and psychologists may be brought into the hearing to testify regarding the person’s health condition, behavior, and other relevant factors. If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the appointment of a guardian is appropriate — despite the objection — it will issue an order specifying their powers.

A guardianship can substantially impact a ward’s rights. Accordingly, the person appointed as guardian will either be entitled to a full guardianship or a limited guardianship. The court will only grant the guardian with the powers necessary to provide for the ward. This is to ensure the guardianship is not overly restrictive.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Guardianship Attorney

Guardianship matters can be complex and it’s essential to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to help you navigate the process. At Dave Burns Law Office, I provide skillful representation and compassionate counsel for Minnesota uncontested and contested guardianship proceedings. If you would like to discuss a guardianship matter, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing dave@daveburnslaw.com. I assist clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Categories: Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer