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Changes In Iowa Adult Guardianship Laws

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
July 6, 2020

In this article, we will discuss new and updated laws for Iowa Adult Guardianships and cover the following topics:

  • Changes in Iowa Guardianship Terminology
  • New Or Updated Rules For Initiating an Adult Guardianship In Iowa
  • New Or Updated Rules For Implementing and Administering an Adult Guardianship in Iowa
  • New Or Updated Rules Governing Guardianship Powers

In case you missed it, Iowa legislature passed House File 610, which made a number of changes to adult guardianship rules and procedures in Iowa. The law took effect on January 1st, 2020.

Changes in Iowa Guardianship Terminology

A couple of changes to Iowa Guardianship terminology were made with the new law:

  • “Proposed ward” a term that is considered outdated and offensive was replaced by “respondent;” and
  • “Ward” was replaced by the term “protected person.”

New Rules For Initiating an Adult Guardianship In Iowa

The new law changed the procedure for how adult guardianships in Iowa begin. The changes included:

  • A Completed Background Check - The court is required to perform a statewide background check, looking for any past offenses under the child abuse registry, dependent adult abuse registry, and sex offender registry.
  • Right To An Attorney - Respondents (previously referred to as the proposed ward) always have the right to an attorney, unless the respondent is also the petitioner, in which case an attorney should not be necessary. The state will provide an attorney if one cannot be afforded, and it is the attorney’s responsibility to advise the respondent and operate within the respondent’s best wishes.
  • Professional Evaluation of the Respondent or Protected Person - Before an order to begin, change, or end a guardianship can be handed down a professional evaluation must be ordered by the court and completed by the appropriate professional.
  • Court Hearing - Before a guardianship can begin, be modified, or terminated an in-person court hearing in front of a judge must take place. During this hearing, appropriate parties can present evidence and argue for or against the guardianship, modification, or termination.

New Or Updated Rules For Implementing and Administering an Adult Guardianship in Iowa

House File 610 made changes to how guardianship is implemented and administered. The changes are broken down into two categories below:

The Initial Care Plan - All guardians must file an initial care plan within 90 days of their appointment as guardian. The plan will include some form of the following:

  • The protected person’s current residence, living arrangement, and expenses;
  • The protected person’s healthcare needs and the guardian’s plans for making sure their protected person meets those healthcare needs;
  • The guardian’s plan for the protected person’s fulfillment of any educational, vocational, or training needs; and
  • The guardian’s plan for fulfilling the protected person’s regular social engagement including time with family members, friends, social activities, etc.

Annual Reports - An annual report must be filed by the guardian every year, with no more than a year between reports. No exceptions to this rule will be made. Each annual report should include the following:

  • The protected person’s living arrangements;
  • Source of payment for living expenses and any other expenses;
  • The protected person’s overall health status, including mental and physical status and any appropriate documentation from the protected person’s physicians;
  • Employment, employment training, vocational training, etc that the protected person is involved in, if applicable;
  • The protected person’s engagement with friends, family members, and any other social activities;
  • The guardian’s opinion on whether further guardianship is needed and if the guardian feels they can continue to successfully operate as a guardian;
  • And any help needed in caring for and managing the day-to-day affairs of the protected person.

New Or Updated Rules Governing Adult Guardianship Powers

The new law also changed or updated the range of power and actions guardians can take on behalf of the ward. Depending on the type of guardianship, these actions are generally split into two categories: 1) actions that can be taken at any time, without court approval, and 2) actions that require prior court approval.

Actions that can be taken at any time and do not require court approval:

  • Actions or decisions regarding the protected person’s health, education, maintenance, education, welfare, and safety;
  • Helping the protected person become more independent and self-reliant;
  • Taking care of the protected person’s belongs, pets, etc;
  • Helping the protected person establish a safe and reliable permanent residence;
  • Arrange and consent to certain professional,  medical, dental, and other healthcare treatment;
  • Scheduling and maintaining regular visits to the protected person if the guardian does not live with the protected person; and
  • The guardian also has the power to place appropriate time, place, or frequency restrictions on visitation with friends and family members as well as other activities, as long as those restrictions are in the best interest of the protected person.

Actions that can be taken with prior court approval:

  • Moving the protected person to any type of secure facility, including a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, hospital, etc, that limits the protected person’s ability to come and go and receive visitors;
  • Consenting to the protected person’s removal or withholding from life-saving procedures, or procedures such as abortion or sterilization;
  • Restricting the protected person from communicating with or visiting a specific individual that the protected person has expressed a desire to visit or communicate with.

Overall, these changes were made with the best interest of the protected person in mind and in an effort to maintain as much self-reliance and autonomy as possible for protected persons. If you have any questions about Iowa guardianships, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (563) 503-6910.

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