A guardianship is a legal relationship created by the court to allow the appointment of someone (the guardian) to be responsible for decision-making for someone else (the ward). This guide discusses guardianships for an incapacitated person, which Texas law defines as someone "who because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, care for the person's own physical health, or manage the person's own financial affairs" (Texas Estates Code 1002.017).
Please note that guardianships are very restrictive for the ward. There are other alternatives that should be explored before proceeding with a guardianship. These are discussed on the Alternatives to Guardianship page of this guide.
This guide provides information about assigning a guardian to an adult who is or may become incapacitated. Some people use the term "guardian" to refer to the general custody of a child. Texas law uses the term "conservator" instead. For information about legal options regarding care for children or minors, see our research guide on child custody.
A guardianship must be created by the court through a formal appointment process. In larger counties, the proceedings will be initiated in the Probate Court. For smaller counties that do not have a probate court, the County Court or County Court at Law will be the appropriate court.
In general, priority is given to family members and to the preferences of the incapacitated person. If the proposed ward does not have any family members available to be their guardian, there are certain qualified third parties, known as "private professional guardians," who the court can appoint.
The Ward's Bill of Rights states that a ward has the right to ask the court to change their guardianship, appoint a different guardian, or have their legal capacity restored and end the guardianship. To do so, they must file a petition with the court.
In addition, Texas law requires that many guardianships be reviewed by the court on an annual basis so that the court can determine whether they should be continued, changed, or terminated.
Below you will find contact information for other organizations that may be able to provide additional information or assist you further with a guardianship.
These e-books contain information on guardianship. These e-books can be viewed by those who have signed up for a free library account with the State Law Library. Only Texas residents are eligible to sign up. Signing up is free.
The State Law Library is pleased to offer CLE e-books from the State Bar of Texas. Below are some titles relevant to guardianships.
We have many more CLE course materials available in print. For a complete overview of our holdings, please see our Continuing Legal Education Materials page.