In this article...

In comes the guardianship.  

  • What is a guardianship in Iowa?
  • When is a guardianship necessary?
  • What types of guardianships exist in Iowa?
  • Who is qualified to become a guardian in Iowa?
  • What powers does a guardian have in Iowa?
  • What is the process to becoming a guardian of an adult in Iowa?
  • What is required of a guardian of an adult in Iowa post-hearing?
  • How long does an adult guardianship last in Iowa?
  • How do you modify or terminate an adult guardianship in Iowa?

In America, once we reach the age of majority and become an adult, we are able to make our own decisions. People need not agree with our decisions. This is one of our basic freedoms and rights as citizens of this country. Therefore, this right may only be taken away for very good reason, and must be limited as much as possible.  

There are certain circumstances under which we may no longer be able to make sound decisions on our own behalf and may need the assistance of a relative or other business or entity to assist us in our decision-making. In comes the guardianship.  

  • What is a guardianship in Iowa?
  • When is a guardianship necessary?
  • What types of guardianships exist in Iowa?
  • Who is qualified to become a guardian in Iowa?
  • What powers does a guardian have in Iowa?
  • What is the process to becoming a guardian of an adult in Iowa?
  • What is required of a guardian of an adult in Iowa post-hearing?
  • How long does an adult guardianship last in Iowa?
  • How do you modify or terminate an adult guardianship in Iowa?

What is a guardianship in Iowa?

A guardianship is a court case that arranges for a person to make certain decisions for another person. The person who will be making the decisions is the Guardian. The person who needs help making decisions is the Respondent, or Protected Person (previously called the Ward). A Guardian specifically deals with the non-financial decisions of the Protected Person.  

When is a guardianship necessary?

A guardianship is appropriate when it is demonstrated to the Court that an adult’s “decision-making capacity is so impaired that the person is unable to care for his or her own personal safety or to provide for his or her necessities.”

What types of guardianships exist in Iowa?

Guardianships must be limited to what is absolutely necessary to assist the Protected Person and nothing more. Therefore, there are different levels of guardianship available in Iowa. In a “plenary”, or full guardianship, the guardian makes decisions about all of the Protected Person’s needs. There is also a “limited” guardianship, under which the guardian is only given the ability to make decisions about specific needs.  

There is also a type of guardianship in which the Protected Person, while still competent, chooses their guardian in the event that they became incapacitated. This is called a ‘standby guardianship’.  

Further still, guardianships can be divided by private and public. Public guardianships are those where the guardian appointed is a state or county government agency. Iowa does not allow these. Iowa, does, however, allow private guardianships, where a private citizen, such as a family member or friend, is appointed as the guardian.  

Who is qualified to become a guardian in Iowa?

Any competent adult who has not been convicted of a serious crime and is a legal resident of the United States is eligible to become a guardian in Iowa. A guardian appointed in Iowa must also usually reside in Iowa. This requirement may be waived by the Court for good reason or when there is a co-guardian appointed that does reside in Iowa.  

What powers does a guardian have in Iowa?

The powers of a guardian depend on the type of guardianship in place. For a guardian who was appointed a “plenary”, or full, guardianship, you have the power to make all decisions affecting the Protected Person. This can include where they will live, their right to consent or refuse medical treatment, etc.  

Alternatively, if the Protected Person still had the ability to make some decisions an you were instead appointed guardian in a limited guardianship, you will have only the powers specifically stated in the guardianship order or letters of appointment.  

What is the process to becoming a guardian of an adult in Iowa?

To become a guardian in Iowa, you must first ask the court through a document called a Petition. You must explain why this guardianship is necessary in your petition. Notice will be provided to all interested parties, including the Protected Person. Other interested parties can be the Protected Person’s parents (if they are not the petitioners), a spouse, or any adult children.  

The judge will then set the case for a hearing. At this hearing, the Petitioner has the burden of proving that the Protected Person is incompetent, or incapacitated. The judge must then decide whether the Protected Person needs some assistance in doing things for his or herself (limited guardianship), or if they actually need someone to take over and make the decisions for them (plenary guardianship). For more information specifically about guardianship of an adult in Iowa, visit How to File for Guardianship for a Disabled Adult in Iowa.

What is required of a guardian of an adult in Iowa post-hearing?

Once you are appointed as guardian, you have several duties. You must make decisions affecting the Protected Person and may be entrusted to care for their personal property, arrange necessary medical services, etc. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to help the Protected Person develop maximum self-reliance.

How long does an adult guardianship last in Iowa?

A guardianship in Iowa lasts until the Protected Person either dies or becomes able to make their own decisions again. This may be true even if the Protected Person still has a mental disability. The Protected Person may also request that the Court terminate the guardianship.  

How do you modify or terminate an adult guardianship in Iowa?

Modifying or terminating an adult guardianship in Iowa is similar to setting one up. A petition (this time to modify or terminate) must be filed with the Court. Notice will be provided to all interested parties and then a hearing will be set. The judge will decide at the hearing whether the guardianship should be modified to give the guardian more or less power than originally awarded. The judge may also determine that the Protected Person is able to make decisions concerning their welfare on their own now and no longer requires the assistance of a guardian at all. If this is the case, the judge will terminate the guardianship, returning all authority over decision-making to the Protected Person.  

O’Flaherty Law understands the complex process of obtaining an Adult Guardianship in Iowa. Our family law lawyers have years of experience. We can prepare you for the expected and unexpected issues when going through a guardianship hearing.  

Call our office at (515) 207-2006, email desmoines.ia@oflaherty-law.com, or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.  

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