How To Obtain Legal Guardianship For An Aging Adult In Kentucky

By Joshua Berkley

Guardianship for an older individual in Kentucky is a legal process designed to protect adults who cannot manage their affairs or make decisions due to a disability or incapacity. This legal process involves the appointment of a guardian by a court to make personal, financial, and medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. Guardianship aims to ensure the well-being and safety of individuals who cannot manage their affairs while respecting their rights as much as possible. It is a significant step that requires thorough consideration and knowledge of Kentucky’s specific legal standards and procedures.

Steps Needed For Guardianship Of An Older Individual:

  • Assess The Situation: First, assess whether the older person (referred to as the “ward” in legal terms) truly needs a guardian. Guardianship is necessary when the person cannot make informed decisions due to conditions such as dementia, severe mental illness, or other significant physical or psychological limitations. Guardianship may be required if the person cannot make decisions with support or through less restrictive means like a Power of Attorney or a living will.
  • Consult with Professionals: Before proceeding, it is wise to consult with healthcare professionals to understand the individual’s condition and needs. In addition, speaking with an attorney skilled in elder law can guide the legal process and help determine if guardianship is the best route.
  •  File a Petition: If guardianship is deemed necessary, the next step is to file a petition for guardianship with the local district court in the county where the individual resides. The petition should detail why guardianship is necessary, including medical evidence and a detailed description of the incapacity.
  •  Notify the Interested Parties: Kentucky law requires that the proposed ward and other interested parties (like family members) be notified of the guardianship proceedings. They have the right to be present at hearings and to contest the guardianship if they believe it is unnecessary or inappropriate.
  • Court Evaluation: The court will order an evaluation of the adult individual’s condition by a qualified professional. In Kentucky, this usually involves a three-member panel, including a physician, a psychologist or social worker, and someone familiar with the individual’s situation. This panel will assess the ward’s capacity and report their findings to the court.
  • Hearing: After the evaluation, the court will hold a hearing to review the evidence and determine whether the guardianship is in the individual’s best interest. The proposed individual is entitled to be present and to have legal representation. The individual’s appearance may be waived in some circumstances.  If the court favors guardianship, it will also consider who should be appointed guardian, prioritizing individuals the ward prefers or trusts.
  • Appointment and Responsibilities of the Guardian: If the court appoints a guardian, that individual (or entity) will have legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual. The guardian is expected to act in the individual’s best interests and must report to the court periodically about the guardianship status.
  • Ongoing Oversight: Kentucky guardianships are subject to ongoing oversight by the court, which include annual reports or other periodic check-ins. The guardian must manage the individual’s affairs responsibly, focusing on well-being and financial interests.
  • Ending the Guardianship: If the ward’s condition improves such that they can manage their affairs, the guardianship can be terminated. This usually requires a petition to the court and a hearing similar to the one that established the guardianship.

Contact a Shelbyville Guardianship Attorney

Remember, the specific processes and requirements can vary slightly depending on the specific requirements in Kentucky and the case details. It is crucial to seek legal advice and carefully follow the local court’s procedures. Berkley Oliver PLLC has experienced, compassionate guardianship/estate planning attorneys in Kentucky who can help you through the guardianship process step by step. Contact our office for a consultation.

About the Author
Josh Berkley is an attorney and owner at Berkley Oliver PLLC who helps individuals implement plans to protect their assets and their loved ones. Josh focuses his practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law.  From assisting young parents in making a plan to provide for their children, to helping senior clients qualify for Medicaid, Josh works with clients to create estate plans and life plans tailored to each person’s specific goals. He also helps clients with a wide variety of important legal documents such Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate Designations, and Living Wills. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Josh here.