2 Changes to Oklahoma’s Guardianship Law That Protect Potential Wards
By Solid Serenity Legal Solutions
You seek guardianship over an adult when the adult is unable to make decisions for, or physically care for, themself. Though many adults with cognitive or physical disabilities may need a guardian, we can agree that many of them have some limited ability to care for themselves.
From the Netflix film “I Care A Lot,” based on the true story of a professional Guardian in Nevada who swindled the Courts into giving her charge over numerous people’s assets and affairs, to the frenzy of questions behind the Conservatorship of Brittany Spears, adult guardianships have recently received a lot of public attention.
Oklahoma made 2 changes to its existing laws that are effective November 1, 2021. The changes address some concerns regarding the rights of potential wards and the need for restrictions in Guardianship proceedings. Here are 2 changes to Oklahoma’s guardianship law that protect potential wards.
Oklahoma statutes list the priority of people who can be named guardian over someone else. We also have a law restricting the number of Wards a person can manage to 5, unless they meet certain exceptions. But, the changes going into effect in November protect the rights of potential Wards even more.
(1) When Guardians Can Be Appointed
Starting November 1, the Court must determine the extent of a Ward’s incapacity and whether “less restrictive alternatives” to Guardianship are an option before granting a guardianship.. If the Court finds there are less restrictive alternatives, they can dismiss the case. Or, they can limit the guardianship to meet the needs of the Ward while allowing the Ward to have some independence and self-reliance.
The changes require a guardianship be “used only as necessary to promote and protect the well-being of the person and his or her property.” Also, the law makes it clear guardianships are“designed to encourage the development of maximum self-reliance and independence of the person.” And, a guardianship should be limited “only to the extent required by the actual mental, physical and adaptive limitations of the person.”
These changes clarify the legislature’s intent for guardianship to be used only as a last resort. Thus, the new provisions provide greater protection to potential wards.
(2) Guardianship Order and Plans
If a guardianship is granted, the Judge will issue an order granting the guardianship. The new law requires clear language in that order on the Ward’s ability to vote.
Also, starting in November, the Guardian must send the Guardianship plan to those entitled to notice under Oklahoma law. The plan used to be filed with the Court for the court’s review only. But, this added provision allows the Ward’s family to review the plan and make sure the Ward’s needs are met.
Though predators will always look for loopholes in the law to exploit their prey, the new language makes exploitation harder. The court is now required to look at options other than guardianship that give the Ward more independence. Greater independence allows the Ward to have a fuller life. These changes are a step in the right direction for Wards in Oklahoma.
If you have questions about guardianship, book an appointment online.