As an adult child, one of the most difficult moments you will ever experience is the moment when you realize your parent can no longer take care of himself/herself because of physical or mental incapacity. If you have come to that realization yourself, you may be wondering what to do next. If the situation is serious enough, it may be time to consider pursuing guardianship over your parent. Since you have likely never been through the guardianship process before you likely have a number of questions regarding how the process works. If you are worried that your parent’s condition is serious, time may be a concern as well. Therefore, one of your first question may be “How long is the guardianship process in Missouri?”
What Is a Guardian or a Conservator in Missouri?
In the State of Missouri, you could be appointed a Guardian, a Conservator, or both for your parent. A guardian is a person who has been appointed by a court to have the care and custody of a minor or of an adult person who has been legally determined to be incapacitated. A conservator is a person or a corporation, such as a bank or trust company, appointed by a to manage the property of a minor or of an adult person who has been legally determined to be disabled.
The State of Missouri defines incapacitated as follows:
“An incapacitated person is one who is unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to such an extent that he [or she] lacks capacity to meet essential requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety or other care such that serious physical injury, illness, or disease is likely to occur.”
In the State of Missouri, “disabled” is also defined as someone who is:
“unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to such an extent that the person lacks ability to manage his [or her] financial resources.”
How Do You Become Your Parent’s Guardian?
Guardianship and conservatorship are considered the most restrictive of all options for an adult who is having trouble living independently. Because guardianship/conservatorship is viewed essentially as the option of last resort, the law requires you to go through a fairly lengthy judicial process before a court will appoint a guardian/conservator. To begin the guardianship (or conservatorship) process you must file a petition in the appropriate probate division of the Circuit Court in the county in which the alleged incapacitated or disabled person lives. The proposed ward (the legal term given to the incapacitated/disabled person who is in need of a guardian/conservator) must be served with the petition. In addition, notice of the proceedings must also be given to other interested persons, including a spouse, other adult children, anyone acting in a representative capacity with respect to any of the proposed ward’s financial resources, and any person having care and custody of the respondent. The proposed ward, in this case your parent, may object to the appointment of a guardian as may anyone else who is entitled to notice of the proceedings. Eventually, the court will set a hearing date at which you must present sufficient evidence to convince the court that a guardian and/or conservator is needed. Furthermore, you must convince the court that you are the appropriate person to be your parent’s guardian and/or conservator.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Because every guardianship process is unique, it is impossible to provide a universal time table that reflects how long the process will take. If the petition for guardianship is not opposed, you can generally get through the process within 60 to 90 days; however, even an unopposed petition can run into obstacles that lengthen the time table. If someone files an objection, the issue must be litigated, meaning it could take considerably longer than 60-90 days. If a true emergency exists that could leave your parent in danger, you may be able to petition the court for emergency temporary guardianship. An emergency petition for guardianship can be heard without the other parties involved in the case being present and may be heard within a day of filing the petition. If granted however, the guardianship authority will only last for a short period of time, usually long enough to notify the proposed ward and others entitled to notice. A hearing will then be scheduled to determine if the temporary guardianship should be converted to a permanent guardianship.
If you have additional questions or concerns about guardianship in Missouri, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.