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Guardianship - Information About the Court Process

What happens after I file the guardianship petition?

In a guardianship case, the court will schedule a hearing on whether the person is incapacitated within 120 days from when the petition was filed, unless the court finds a good reason to delay the hearing.

The respondent is entitled to have an attorney at the hearing, but if cannot afford one, the court will appoint the Office of Public Advocacy to represent the respondent.

Before the hearing, the court will appoint a “visitor” that the state pays for who will arrange for evaluations to be performed on the incapacitated person. The court will also appoint an expert in the area of the respondent’s incapacity to examine the respondent and write a report.

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What is the difference between an attorney for the respondent and a guardian ad litem?

The attorney represents the respondent’s wishes.

The guardian ad litem (or GAL) is a person appointed by the court to represent the respondent’s best interests and rights in the proceedings. The court appoints A GAL, generally an attorney, if the court decides that the respondent cannot determine his own interests because of impaired ability. A GAL's duties end when guardianship proceedings are over.

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What does the court expert do?

The court expert (or medical expert) has expertise regarding the incapacity of the respondent and has evaluated or treated the respondent. For example, the expert in a guardianship case could be the respondent's psychiatrist. The court appoints an expert who will submit a report and be available to testify at the hearing.

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What does the visitor do?

The court visitor is a neutral person trained or experienced in law, medical care, mental health care, pastoral care, education, rehabilitation or social work. The court appoints a visitor to make a thorough independent investigation and evaluation of all information relevant to the respondent's case. The court visitor recommends to the court what type of protective appointment, if any, is in the respondent's best interests.

The visitor will interview the respondent and any person seeking to be the guardian. The visitor must provide a copy of the petition to the respondent and explain what it means. The visitor will tell the respondent about his or her rights including the right to talk to an attorney and an expert in the field of the respondent’s alleged incapacity before answering any of the respondent’s questions. The visitor will provide the respondent with:

The visitor shall arrange for the expert to examine the respondent. Interviews and examinations of the respondent shall take place in the respondent’s residence unless the respondent agrees or the visitor finds it necessary to going to a medical or mental health facility.

The visitor will file with the court a report on what the evaluations showed and attach the expert’s report within 90 days after the petition is filed, but no later than 10 days before the guardianship hearing. The person who filed the petition and the respondent have 10 days to file a written response to the visitor’s report if he or she wants to respond.

In addition, if the court appoints a guardian, the court will appoint a visitor every 3 years to file a report about the guardianship. The state pays the visitor to prepare a report after interviewing the ward, the guardian and others.

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What does the visitor’s evaluation report say?

The visitor shall file with the court an evaluation report within 90 days after the petition was filed. The report shall explain alternatives to guardianship and recommend any that will safeguard the respondent’s essential requirements for physical health and safety. The report may recommend personal guardianship only if the visitor determines that alternatives cannot meet the respondent’s needs. The report includes

If the evaluation report recommends guardianship, it must also include:

The petitioner and the respondent may file responses to the evaluation report within 10 days of receiving it.

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What happens at the guardianship hearing?

The respondent has several rights at the hearing, including:

If the court finds the respondent is incapacitated, it will decide the extent of the incapacity and what alternatives to full guardianship exist.

If the court finds alternatives can meet the respondent’s needs, the court may dismiss the action and order alternative form of protection.

If the court finds the respondent can do some but not all of the functions needed to care for himself or herself, and there aren’t feasible alternatives to guardianship, the court may appoint a partial guardian, but not a full guardian.

If the court finds the respondent is totally incapacitated and that there are not feasible alternatives to guardianship, including a partial guardianship, the court may appoint a full guardian. The court shall consider the ward’s preference in who it appoints as guardian. The court will provide the ward with a written statement that explains the ward’s rights and what procedures to use to petition the court.

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What happens after the guardianship hearing?

If the court determines that the respondent is an incapacitated person and that a guardianship is necessary, the court issues a Guardianship Order.

The Guardianship Order:

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How does the guardian accept the appointment?

The person named as the guardian must file an acceptance of the appointment and acknowledgement of duties and reporting requirements. A relative or friend of the ward who is appointed as the guardian must complete one hour of mandatory education on the basics of guardianship before the appointment or within 30 days after the appointment. Depending on the situation, to accept the appointment, file:

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What happens after the guardian accepts the appointment?

The court will issue a document called “Letters of Guardianship” which states what are the guardian’s powers and whether there are any specific limitations.

The guardian will present the Letters when needed to show what their powers are, such as when dealing with financial issues or medical providers.

The person appointed as the guardian must complete one hour of mandatory education on the basics of guardianship before the appointment or within 30 days after the appointment.

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Does the guardian have to post a bond?

The court may require the guardian to post a bond, especially when there are substantial assets that need to be protected.

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Do I have to do any training to become a guardian of an adult?

Alaska law requires all guardians of adults to obtain at least 1-hour of education on the responsibilities of being a guardian. You may satisfy this requirement by a combination of video and reading materials, which are available at your local court.

Reading Materials

Video

If you can't view online:

If you live in Anchorage, you may also satisfy the requirement by attending a class sponsored by the Family Guardian Program. The class is offered the first Tuesday of each month at 4:00 p.m. at the Office of Public Advocacy, 900 W. 5th Ave., Ste. 525. Classes last approximately 1 hour and include an informational video and an opportunity to ask individual questions about the guardianship process. Please call 269-3500 if you plan to attend.

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Do I have to prove that I did the required training/education?

Once you do the required education, fill out and file:

Make 2 copies of the completed form. Provide a copy by mail or hand delivery to the ward in the case. Keep a copy for yourself. File the original with the court.

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Can a mediator help with adult guardianship and conservatorship?

The courts in Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Palmer, Sitka and Valdez offer free mediation services in adult guardianship and conservatorship cases. The mediator helps those involved make decisions and create plans that will best meet the needs of the vulnerable adult.

Learn more about the Guardianship and Conservatorship Mediation Program, PUB-37 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo.

Read the Confidentiality and Mediation Agreement - Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Adobe Acrobat PDF logo which describes mediation, the role of the mediator, and how mediation is confidential in these cases.

If you are interested in mediation and it is available in the court where you filed your case, you may file:

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Rev. 4 February 2015
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