The purpose of filing a guardianship in California, is to obtain a court order that legally establishes an adult who is responsible for a minor child. A guardianship is not filed for an adult who cannot take care of themselves (see Conservatorships
). Guardianship in California is the court process whereby the judge gives someone that is not the child’s parent custody of the child, or the right to control the child’s property, or both. To establish a guardianship in California, you must file a petition, and the court has to approve it.
In most situations, California law requires that minors have an adult guardian who is responsible for them. If the court orders guardianship, it can be:
Guardianship of the child’s person (custody),
Guardianship of the child’s property (called “estate”),
Guardianship of both the child’s person and estate.
A Guardian of the minor’s PERSON has legal custody of the minor, and is responsible for taking care of the minor’s well-being. A guardianship of the minor’s ESTATE is necessary if the minor has substantial assets, such as an inheritance. Depending on your situation, you may need a guardianship of the minor’s person, estate or both.
A court ordered guardianship in California is legal recognition by a California court that an adult has responsibility for taking care of the physical needs of a minor, or for handling the minor’s assets. A legal guardianship can not be established informally nor does it become automatic if you are named in a deceased parent’s will. In California, you must file legal documents with a court, appear in a court hearing and be appointed guardian by a judge. If the court chooses you to be a child’s guardian, you’ll take on important jobs and obligations. Because you will be responsible to the court for your actions, you must understand your job and responsibilities as a guardian. A clear description of a guardian’s responsibilities and duties are outlined in the Guardianship pamphlet published by the Judicial Council of California.
Once a guardianship in California has been established, the person appointed as the minor’s guardian must serve as guardian until legally released by the court. This could be when the minor reaches age 18 or earlier if the court terminates the guardianship. There may be other alternatives to allow someone to care for a minor without getting a formal legal guardianship. Special Caregiver and Guardianship Authorization forms and other statements can be prepared and notarized which can give a non-parent a broad range of responsibility for a minor, such as to obtain benefits and apply for health insurance, authorize medical care or enroll the minor in school.