A guardian is the adult who is legally responsible for the needs of a minor. You may only become a guardian in California by being appointed by the court.

There are basically two types of guardianships, “guardianship of the person” – meaning legal custody and responsibility for the minor, and “guardianship of the minor’s estate” – meaning legal responsibility to manage the minors assets. In many cases, you will only need to obtain a guardianship of the person, unless the minor has assets. A guardianship is not a permanent a relationship. However, by obtaining a guardianship, you will have the responsibility of caring for all of the minor’s needs including: food, shelter, health care, education, and emotional and physical well-being. As a guardian you will be able to make health care decisions concerning the minor. You will also be able to enroll the minor in school and make decisions involving the minor’s education.

The guardianship generally lasts until the minor turns 18, unless the court determines that the guardianship is not in the minor’s best interest. You may also petition the court to terminate the guardianship.

There are numerous circumstances in which it is necessary to hire an attorney to handle the guardianship procedures: If the child’s parents or some other party is likely to contest the guardianship, if the minor has substantial assets (more than $5,000), if the minor lives in California but you live in another state, if the minor is physically or emotionally disabled, if the minor is a Native American, or if you plan to move the minor to live outside of the state of California. Also, you should understand that becoming a guardian is an important and complex process which will very often require the assistance of an attorney. There are strict legal accounting and annual reporting requirements to the court. It is recommended that you seek the advice of counsel before handling a guardianship on your own.

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