Evelyn, who lives one hundred miles away, visits her mother, Marie, who suffers from dementia, and finds she is in a seriously weakened state from diarrhea and dehydration. She contacts sister, Jane, who lives a similar distance from their mother, to inform her. Upon further investigation, Evelyn discovers that her brother, Ralph, has been mixing a box of X-Lax into their mother’s food over the past three weeks. Ralph, who is in debt, is apparently attempting to rush his inheritance of one-third of the family ranch. What can Evelyn do to protect her mother?
Emergency situations, such as the one in the hypothetical situation, call for the remedy of a temporary guardianship. The existence of financial exploitation by a relative, friend or caregiver represents another example in which a temporary guardianship is appropriate.
Evelyn should immediately contact a lawyer who can file an application to establish a temporary guardianship for her mother. Applications for temporary guardianship take precedence over any other matter that the court must hear except other matters of a similar nature. Therefore, Evelyn can count on quick results.
If the temporary guardianship is granted, it will be automatically terminated at the end of 60 days, unless it is contested. If contested, the court will have the authority to extend the temporary guardianship until the contested issues are resolved in court.
The applicant must give Marie notice that the guardianship is being filed. Although it is not necessary to give Ralph notice, Evelyn realizes that, as a practical matter, Ralph will undoubtedly learn of the filing. Therefore, she anticipates he will contest it.
Evelyn’s elder sister, Jane, who has always thought her judgment was superior to her sister’s, insists they be named as co-guardians. The lawyer explains that Texas does not allow co-guardians to be appointed. Jane eventually consents to Evelyn’s filing as proposed guardian.
A physician’s statement of incapacity that would be required for a permanent guardianship is not necessary for the temporary. At the hearing, Evelyn must show substantial evidence that Marie is incapacitated and that the circumstances present probable cause to appoint a temporary guardian.
Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.