What is a Guardianship? 
A Guardianship is a process by which a court appoints a Guardian for a minor or an incapacitated adult, otherwise called the ward.  If the proposed ward is not legally competent to hire a lawyer, a court will appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the proposed ward throughout guardianship process.

What does “incapacitated” mean?
A person is incapacitated if that person is unable to provide food, clothing or shelter for himself/herself, or to manage his/her financial affairs, due to a physical or mental condition (mental retardation, dementia, mental illness).  For purposes of guardianship, a minor (a person under 18 years old), is also considered “incapacitated”, therefore if a minor inherits outright from a life insurance or other assets, a guardianship of the estate of the minor may be needed if a financial institution will not distribute the assets in any other way. 

What is a Guardian of the Person?  
A Guardian of the Person is a person appointed by the court to care for the physical well-being of the ward, in other words, the Guardian assists the Ward with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

What is a Guardian of the Estate?
A Guardian of the Estate is a person appointed by the court to manage the property of the Ward and to make financial decisions for the ward.

Can the same person be Guardian of the Person and Estate? 


My mother suffered a severe stroke and she is unable to take care of herself.  She lives in the Woodlands and I live in Houston.  How do I become her guardian? 
Start by having your mother examined by a certified doctor. If the doctor concludes your mother is partially or fully incapacitated, then a guardianship attorney in the Woodlands can help you with the guardianship process by filing a guardianship application in the county court of Montgomery County. 

My son is turning 18 in three months. He has severe IDD. How soon can a guardianship application be filed for my son?
Guardianship attorneys may file a guardianship application no earlier than 180 days before his 18th birthday.  The guardianship hearing is held on or after his 18th birthday.

My 5 year old daughter received life insurance proceeds from her father (we were divorced before his death). The insurance company refuses to issue the check to me even though I am the  child’s biological mother. What can I do?
If depends on the amount of the life insurance proceeds your daughter is inheriting. If the amount is over a hundred thousand, you could set up a management trust, or you could open a guardianship of the estate for her (both processes are expensive). However, if the insurance proceeds are less than a hundred thousand, an experienced guardianship attorney may use a cost efficient process through which the life insurance proceeds may be deposited in the court’s registry until your daughter turns 18.

My brother has filed to become Guardian of the Estate for our father. I believe he is not fit to be a Guardian. What can I do?
Guardianship attorneys may assist you by contesting and challenging your brother’s appointment and filing a competing guardianship application seeking the court to appoint you as Guardian of your father’s estate. However, you can do so only if your interest is not adverse to your father’s.  If your brother is in fact ineligible to be appointed Guardian, your guardianship lawyer may file the appropriate motion with the court asking the judge to disqualify your brother, and if that attempt or mediation is not successful, the judge will appoint a guardian at trial.

If I ever become incapacitated, is there any way to prevent  a certain family member from becoming my guardian?
Yes, "Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incapacity or Need of Guardian” is a legal document which provides a way to disqualify your family member from serving as your guardian in the future, and it directs the court to appoint the family member that you have selected in your document.

My Mother had severe brain damage from an accident. My sibling is using a Power of Attorney to take money out of our mother’s bank accounts. What can I do to protect our mother’s estate and stop my sibling from depleting our mother’s accounts?

A guardianship lawyer may file a Temporary Guardianship Application seeking the court to appoint you as her temporary guardian. The court will hold a hearing no later than 10 days after the date of filing.

It sounds like the guardianship process is expensive.  Is there any inexpensive way to prepare for the future in the event that I become incapacitated?
If you have the legal capacity to sign legal documents at this time, you can execute a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, a Medical power of Attorney, and a Directive to Physician and Family and Surrogates.  Estate Planning Attorneys draft these estate planning documents routinely at low cost and they are excellent and inexpensive alternatives to Guardianship. To learn more about Power of Attorneys, visit
ESTATE PLANNING   page of this website.

What makes guardianship lawyer, Merita Rice, different from other guardianship attorneys in Houston and The Woodlands?
Attorney Merita Rice is constantly appointed by the Probate Courts of Harris and Montgomery County to handle complex and sometimes contested guardianship cases. Judges give such appointments to attorneys who are experienced in those areas of law and have constantly demonstrated their extensive knowledge in such law practice. In addition, she is a member of the Probate, Trust and Estate Section of the Houston Bar Association. She constantly attends the meetings held by such Association, and stays current on all the new legal developments affecting guardianship law. Furthermore, when you sign the Contract for services with Ms. Rice, you will communicate with Ms. Rice throughout your case, and you can rest assured that it will be her, and not secretaries preparing your case.

Where can I learn more about guardianship of person and estate? 

The judge of Probate Court No. 4 in Harris County has posted extensive guardianship information on her court's website.

To all clients who are guardians of the person only: Please visit this court's website to download the Annual Report Guardianship Form, which you need to file every year with the respective court in Harris County, in order to continue to be guardian of your family member.

Guardianship cases handled by Houston & The Woodlands lawyer and Frequently Asked Questions

Cases: The Guardianship Attorney meets with clients in Houston and the Woodlands and handles temporary and permanent Guardianships of Person and Estate. More specifically, guardianship lawyer handles guardianship of persons and estates for incapacitated adults suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), intellectual disability, down syndrome, autism, mental health and psychiatric disorders and other disabilities.  Guardianship attorney also handles guardianship of estates for minors (under 18 years old) who receive funds from deceased parents, personal injury claims.

Disclaimer: Houston and The Woodlands guardianship attorney, Merita Rice, has answered some frequently asked questions in the area of guardianship below. Take notice that these questions are provided for informational purposes only; therefore, they should not be construed as legal advice.  Contact a guardianship attorney in your area to discuss the facts of your case. No attorney-client relationship is created by viewing or reading the content of this website. An attorney-client relationship is created only after the client has signed a contract for services.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Rice Law Firm, PLLC

Houston:  713.855.3060ricelawhouston@gmail.com                                 ​​

The Woodlands: 936.271.1480, ricelawthewoodlands@gmail.com