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Kevin O'Flaherty

Are you looking to become a guardian in Iowa, or need to know about terminating guardianship? You’ve come to the right place. Our “the ultimate guide to Iowa guardianship” dissects the entire process with precision—qualifying as a guardian, the guardianship proceedings, your responsibilities, and the necessary steps for dissolution. This is your essential resource for clear, comprehensive understanding without needless complexity.

Key Takeaways

  • Iowa offers guardianships for minors and incapacitated adults, with court oversight required for adults.
  • Guardians must meet eligibility, pass background checks, and report to the court; co-guardianship is possible but limited.
  • Guardianship differs from conservatorships, durable powers of attorney, and adoption, each having different levels of permanence, authority, and impact on personal and financial decision-making rights of the protected person.

Types of Guardianships in Iowa

In Iowa, one can petition the court to appoint a guardian for a minor or for an adult. In the case of a minor, if one or more of the biological parents are alive and capable of taking care of the minor protected person, it can be difficult to prove to the court the necessity of a guardian. However, there are some circumstances under which a minor may need a guardian, including: the parents both provide written consent relinquishing custody of the child; the parents are deemed incapable of providing for the child; or the parents have previously compromised the child’s safety, etc.  

The most common type of guardianship in Iowa, however, is for an incapacitated adult. The adult can become incapacitated due to a sudden accident or physical disease. Regardless of the cause, a guardian may be appointed for an adult who is either partially or fully incapable of making sound decisions regarding their own well-being or financial affairs. The court will conduct a comprehensive evaluation, complete with assessments from medical or behavioral specialists, a review of the protected person’s social history or the results of an intelligence test before making their decision on whether a guardian should be appointed.  

For more information about the types of court-appointed guardianships in Iowa, check out our article Iowa Court Appointed Guardians | Iowa Guardianship Explained ( For more information specifically about guardianship of an adult in Iowa, visit How to File for Guardianship for a Disabled Adult in Iowa.

Guardianship vs Conservatorship

In Iowa, at the intersection of individual welfare and fiscal management, guardianship and conservatorship diverge in their roles. Guardianship grants authority over a person’s private matters, whereas conservatorship bestows responsibility for steering the financial course on behalf of a protected person who is no longer capable of making their own decisions.

Guardianship vs Durable Power of Attorney

In Iowa, a durable power of attorney provides an alternative to guardianship that is less restrictive. It enables one to appoint a reliable individual who can make choices for them while still preserving their own measure of independence.

Guardianship vs Adoption

In Iowa, while adoption and guardianship might appear alike at first glance, they are fundamentally different in their essence and consequences. Guardianship maintains the rights of the biological parents intact. On the other hand, adoption creates a permanent new legal relationship that cannot be undone and shifts all parental duties and privileges to the adoptive parents.

Photo of a document titled 'Powers and Responsibilities of Iowa Guardians'

Who Is Eligible 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. Iowa prefers to appoint guardians that also reside in Iowa with the protected person, so that they can stay abreast of the protected person’s condition. However, it is possible for Iowa to appoint a guardian that is out-of-state for good cause or if a resident of Iowa is also appointed. The Court may appoint more than one person wishes to serve in that capacity as co-guardians. There is no statutory limit on the number of co-guardians that can serve, but Iowa does not recommend more than two.  

The guardian may petition the Court to become a guardian themselves, to appoint someone else as a guardian for another person, or may petition the court on their own behalf to have someone appointed as their guardian.  

The Guardianship Process in Iowa

The guardianship process begins when someone files a petition for guardianship with the district or juvenile court of the county where the protected person lives. The petition must state the reason that the guardianship is necessary and must also name the relevant parties, including the name and address of the protected person and the proposed guardian(s). Notice will then be provided to the protected person and a guardian ad litem, or attorney to represent the protected person’s interests, will be appointed. The Court will then conduct a hearing on the matter.  

The court must find that two things are true before they can appoint a guardian:

  1. The protected person (or Respondent) is incapable of making personal decisions; and  
  1. The proposed guardian (often Petitioner) meets the eligibility criteria of a guardian

For more information regarding the guardianship process and hearing in Iowa, check out our article entitled Iowa Guardianship FAQ.  

What Powers do Guardians have?

Iowa prefers to limit a guardian’s powers to those that are absolutely necessary for the benefit of the protected person.  In the case of a minor, the powers given to a guardian are much the same as those of a parent. In the case of an adult guardianship, there is a wide spectrum of powers that could be given to the appointed guardian. A limited guardianship limits the powers of the guardian to those actions specifically stated in the guardianship order. On the other hand, a general or plenary guardianship gives the guardian almost full control over the guardian’s affairs.  

Post-Hearing Requirements of a Guardian

Once a guardian is appointed, the Court will enter a written order. The newly appointed guardian must then take what is called a Court Officer’s Oath. This document discusses the fiduciary duties of a guardian. These duties include the guardian’s responsibility to account for their activities as guardian truthfully and to exercise their duties with diligence and care, among other responsibilities. The guardian will then be issued their Letters of Appointment. Each year following the hearing, the guardian will be required to file a report with the court detailing the current residence and condition of the protected person, as well as the guardian’s activities on the ward’s behalf.  

Terminating an Iowa Guardianship

Terminating a guardianship can be difficult, so it is very important to consider the consequences of consenting to a guardianship in the first place. For guardianship of a minor, if no action is taken to terminate the guardianship, it will remain in effect until the child reaches the age of majority, or age eighteen (18). For guardianship of an adult, the guardianship will remain in effect until the court determines it is no longer necessary. Therefore, action is required to terminate an adult guardianship in Iowa.  

In order to terminate a guardianship early, one must file a Petition for Termination of Guardianship with the court in which the guardianship was originally awarded. If the guardians do not voluntarily release their rights as guardians, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the guardianship is still necessary.  For more, visit How To Terminate Guardianship of a Minor and Regain Parental Rights in Iowa. In the case of temporary guardianships that have been awarded due to an emergency, these automatically terminate after 30 days and do not require a petition to terminate.  

If you have additional questions about pursuing a guardianship in Iowa, request a consultation with an attorney.

Call our office at (630) 324-6666 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.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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