On July 15, 2017, Angela J. was appointed by the court as Guardian of the Person and Guardian of the Estate of her husband, George. Theirs is a second marriage. When Angela made application to be appointed George’s guardian, Jennifer, George’s daughter by his first marriage, sought to be named her father’s guardian instead. Fortunately, George had signed a Declaration of Guardian form naming Angela as his preferred guardian and forbidding the court to designate Jennifer as guardian.
George’s preferences stemmed from his long-term marriage to Angela and Jennifer’s history of neglecting family unless she needed money. After repeatedly succumbing to Jennifer’s her pleas to pay off credit card debt, George had finally cut his daughter off. In accordance with George’s designations, the court was legally bound to appoint Angela, unless she was otherwise disqualified to serve.
George had been living at home with some home health assistance, but recently suffered a debilitating stroke, which necessitated placement in an acute care facility. George was to remain there more than three days. Angela feared that if Jennifer learned of this admittance, she would attempt to interfere with George’s treatment and, perhaps harass George to change his will and beneficiary designations. Does Angela have to notify Jennifer that George is moving into acute care?
Is a Guardian Required to Notify Relatives of Significant Events in the Ward’s Life?
Texas Estates Code §1051.104 requires the applicant for guardianship to give notice by registered mail of the filing to children, siblings, administrators of a nursing home where the proposed ward resides, an agent who holds a power of attorney and a person designated as guardian by written declaration.
The 2017 Legislature passed SB 1709, effective June 15, 2017, which amended Texas Estates Code §1051.104 to add that the initial citation of filing an application for guardianship served on certain family members entitled to notice must contain an additional statement. The statement informs the relative that, should a guardianship be created, that relative must specifically request, in writing, to receive notice of the following: (1) the ward’s death; (2) the ward is admitted to a medical facility for acute care for a period of three days or more; (3) the ward’s residence has changed; (4) the ward is staying at a location, other than the ward’s residence, for any period that exceeds one calendar week.
Angela’s notice contained the statement alerting Jennifer that she had to submit a request in writing if she wanted Angela to notify her of these significant events in her father’s life. Jennifer failed to read the notification carefully and, consequently, did not request to be notified. Therefore, Angela was under no obligation to inform Jennifer of George’s admittance to the acute care facility.
Is a Previously Appointed Guardian Required to Give Notice of Written Request Requirement?
SB 1709 provided that the changes made regarding guardianships apply to guardianships created before, on, or after its effective date on June 15, 2017. The law amended Texas Estates Code §1151.056 to provide that guardians appointed prior to June 15, 2017 must, as soon as possible, but no later than September 1, 2019, notify certain relatives that they must request, in writing, if they wish to be informed of the significant events in the ward’s life listed above. The relatives included are the (1) spouse; (2) parents; (3) siblings; and (4) children.
Those persons currently serving as guardians have likely received notices from the court or their attorneys informing them of this requirement. Any guardian who has not been so informed should immediately contact an elder law attorney or other attorney, with expertise in guardianship, for advice on complying with this new law.
Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives and practices in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.