The Texas statutes relating to guardianship include provisions for a court-initiated guardianship. If the judge in a court that hears guardianship cases learns of an individual residing in that county that appears to need a guardian, that judge is obliged by statute to open an investigation to determine if there is probable cause. (See Section 683)
In one of the larger metropolitan counties with Statutory Probate Courts, the judge assigns one of the court investigators to the case. The court investigator will contact the individual and collect any pertinent information including a certified medical exam from a licensed physician or a psychologist. If it appears a guardianship is indicated, the court investigator will also investigate who would be appropriate to act as guardian and meets the statutory criteria. If the court investigator recommends that a guardianship is needed, a staff attorney will file the necessary application and the judge will make the final determination including who will act as guardian if a guardianship is needed.
In most of the counties in Texas, guardianship cases are heard in constitutional county courts or in county courts at law. Many of these courts do not have budgets for court investigators and staff attorneys. If a judge in one of these courts learns of an individual residing in that county that appears to need a guardian, the judge will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the report. The GAL is usually an attorney or a social worker depending on the county. The GAL contacts the proposed ward and collects any pertinent information including a certified medical exam from a licensed physician or a psychologist. The GAL files an application if needed and the judge will make the final determination.
The most effective way to make a report to a court about the potential need for a guardianship is to provide a letter stating the facts of the situation, how you know this person, and why the family is unable to file for guardianship. (See template link below.) It will also speed up the process if you have the certified medical exam completed by the person’s physician to submit with the letter that you send to the judge. (See CME link below.)
Please be advised that if you choose to rely on a court initiated guardianship, the judge will make the final decision about who will be the best guardian based on information collected in the investigation done by either a court investigator or a GAL and the statutory criteria for a guardian. If there is family willing and/or suitable to serve as guardian, the court will consider the family first. If there is no family willing and/or suitable to be guardian, the judge may appoint a local guardianship program or a private professional guardian.