Oklahoma law has a variety of legal tools to help combat and/or protect against the dangers and concerns faced by families across the state, each with their own unique dynamic and special set of circumstances. It is important not only to be aware of which tools are at your disposal, but also which of those are best suited for the challenge facing your family.  

One of the most significant and widely used of those legal mechanisms is the “guardianship.” Guardianships can cover a broad array of scenarios, and they provide families facing complex situations with a terrific tool during difficult times. Think of a guardianship almost like a band-aid. Generally, their purpose is temporary. They are a legal construct whose role is to provide families with a bridge from the depths of despair to unifying triumph. They temporarily cover the wound, while the body (family) is given the time, attention, and care it needs to heal. Once the underlying issue (necessitating the guardianship in the first place) has been successfully addressed, the band-aid is peeled off and the family is restored, healthy and whole.  

Guardianships are multi-faceted. They can be implemented to protect our children, our elderly, or our incapacitated loved ones. Often, they are needed or desired (not all guardianships must be of necessity – Oklahoma law also allows for guardianships arising out of convenience), in order to protect our children. Children living with parents who may be going through struggles with addiction, mental health crises, or experiencing homelessness, often need the protection and care of another family member or close family friend while the parent(s) of those children have an opportunity to seek the treatment or employment and housing security/stability they need in order to once again be able to provide a safe home environment for their families. Guardianships are intended to serve the needs of those families. 

Guardianships also become a very useful tool to families who have an incapacitated or partially incapacitated child nearing the age of adulthood. In those instances, it is critical to be proactive and address the child’s anticipated needs in advance of their eighteenth birthday. Failure to do so will lead to a gap in coverage where the child may be the only person in the world with the legal authority to act on his/her behalf, despite physically and/or mentally lacking the ability to do so. To avoid such a pitfall, it is important to consult with an attorney at least 6-12 months in advance of the 18th birthday, in order to ensure that guardianship proceedings can be instituted in a timely manner. 

Similarly, guardianships are especially useful and effective in protecting our elderly loved ones. As our family members grow older, they often become more susceptible to being preyed upon by financial predators and grow out of touch with developments in society and technology. This is another area where being proactive is critical. Speak with an attorney about having an estate plan prepared, and be sure that you have nominated an individual to serve as your guardian and/or the guardian of your children (or anyone else over whom you may have legal custody), so that when the time comes, you and your loved ones are protected from the moment a crisis presents itself. 

Guardianships are incredibly helpful, largely because of their flexibility. – They can be uniquely crafted to fit almost any given situation. The Court can construct a guardianship wherein one individual guardian is appointed to serve as protector of both the “person” (daily care, health and medical needs) and financial estate of the ward. Other times the Court may see fit to appoint one individual to oversee the ward’s estate, while appointing another individual to care for the ward’s “person”. This type of flexibility allows Courts and your attorneys to craft a plan that best fits the needs and demands of your unique situation.  

Every individual has the right to contest a proposed guardianship/conservatorship being sought over him/herself or his/her estate (i.e., see Britney Spears). If someone has initiated proceedings seeking guardianship over you or a loved one, contact an attorney today to discuss how best to protect your personal and financial autonomy, and/or that of your loved one. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our attorneys and allow us the opportunity to help you customize the legal tool your family needs to protect what matters most. 

Contact Us Today 

Contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing clientservices@wblaws.com, to connect with an experienced attorney in your area who can guide you through the process.

Devon Walke

Devon Walke

Associate Attorney

Devon Walke is an Associate Attorney at WhitbeckBennett. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, never venturing too far from his hometown of Norman, attending the University of Oklahoma for both undergraduate studies and law school. After being admitted to the Oklahoma Bar in 2016, Devon served a brief stint with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office before accepting a position with a small family law practice in Norman, OK. He practiced there for 4.5 years, focusing on family law matters ranging from issues related to divorce, paternity, custody, visitation and child support modification proceedings (for both minor and disabled adult children), guardianships (for minors and adults), actions for contempt, probate and estate planning. He also practiced some criminal defense (primarily minor offenses and misdemeanors), in addition to prosecuting a few small claims actions.  To learn more about Devon, click here.