How Guardianship Works in Alaska for Children & Families

Updated

End-of-life planning involves more than just deciding who will get your property. It also involves planning for the care of others, yourself, and even your finances. 

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There are many circumstances where it may be necessary to appoint a guardian. A guardian makes the decisions about someone else’s healthcare, housing, property, and assets. There are many different types of guardians, including guardians for minors, guardians for aging adults, and guardians for adults with developmental disabilities. This means that you may find yourself in a position where you are appointed as a guardian and later need a guardian. 

Additionally, if you have a minor child, then you will most likely have to choose a guardian when you are creating your end-of-life plan. Before you can choose a guardian, you need to understand the role of a guardian. Read on as we discuss how guardianship works in Alaska for children and families.

What Types of Guardianship Exist in Alaska?

In Alaska, there are four types of guardianship: 

  • Full
  • Temporary
  • Partial/limited
  • Testamentary

A full guardian has total decision-making responsibilities for the ward. This includes decisions about the following:

  • Medical
  • Housing
  • Services
  • Legal
  • Financial 

A temporary guardian, as its name suggests, is appointed for a limited time period. A temporary guardian is given authority to provide emergency services to protect the ward from serious injury or disease. 

A partial or limited guardian has limited rights with regard to their decision-making responsibilities. This type of guardian is typically appointed for an adult who can partially care for themself.

It is also possible for a parent to appoint a guardian for their child by will. This type of guardian is called a guardian by testamentary appointment. 

Who Are the Default Guardians for Minor Children, Older Adults, or Adults With Special Needs in Alaska?

Guardians are appointed by the court. As such, there are no default guardians in Alaska. Generally, parents are responsible for the care and custody of their minor children. If a child has special needs and turns 18, they are considered an adult. That means that a person must petition the court to be appointed their guardian. Additionally, older adults are also considered adults. Thus, there is no default guardian.

While there is no default guardian, under Alaska law, there is a preference to appoint a family member or friend as a guardian. However, a guardian can be almost any adult who is willing to take on the role. 

What Forms Do You Need to File for Guardianship in Alaska?

The forms you need to file for guardianship in Alaska vary by the type of guardianship for which you are filing. The Alaska Court System provides self-help services, including packets for various guardianship situations. If you have questions about filing for guardianship in Alaska, you may want to consult with an experienced guardianship attorney. 

Adult guardianship

If you are starting an adult guardianship case in Alaska, you will need to file the following forms that you can access online:

  • Petition for appointment of a full (or partial) guardian for an adult
  • Notice of guardianship hearing (to interested persons)
  • Certificate of service by certified mail

You may need to file additional forms including notices, acceptances, and reports and inventories. Contact a court near you for specific information.

Emergency adult guardianship

If you are filling to ask the court to appoint a temporary guardian in an emergency, you will need to file the following forms:

  • Petition for appointment of a full (or partial) guardian for an adult
  • Emergency petition for appointment of a temporary guardian

The emergency petition must state the reasons and factual basis for the petition. Namely, that the adult is in need of immediate services to protect “against serious injury, illness, or disease” and that the adult is “not capable of procuring the necessary services.” A hearing will be conducted within 72 hours of filing.

Minor guardianship for a non-Indian child

If you are filing for minor guardianship for a non-Indian child, then you will need to file the following forms which are on the Alaska state website

  • Petition for appointment of a guardian for a minor
  • Child custody jurisdiction affidavit 
  • Acceptance of appointment as guardian of a minor 
  • Parent's consent to appointment of a guardian
  • Notice of guardianship hearing for non-Indian child

Minor Guardianship for an Alaska Native or American Indian child

If you are filing for minor guardianship for an Alaska Native or American Indian child, then you will need to file the following forms:

  • Petition for appointment of a guardian for a minor
  • Child custody jurisdiction affidavit 
  • Acceptance of appointment as guardian of a minor 
  • Parent's consent to appointment of a guardian
  • Notice of guardianship hearing for Indian child
  • Request to Bureau of Indian Affairs to notify Indian tribe or parent of petition for guardianship of an Indian child
  • Certificate of service by certified mail

Minor guardianship appointed by will

In a testamentary appointment for a minor child, you will need to file the following forms: 

  • Guardian's acceptance of appointment in a will
  • Notice to minor ward of guardian's appointment and minor's right to object

How Do You File for Guardianship in Alaska?

To file for guardianship in Alaska, you would fill out the appropriate forms discussed in the previous section. You would then file the forms in the superior court where the respondent resides. The respondent is the person for whom you are asking to be appointed guardian. 

Once you have filed the appropriate forms, the court will schedule a hearing. The hearing process will depend on whether the guardianship is for an adult or minor child and whether or not anyone opposes the appointment.

How Do You Assign a Guardian for a Minor Child in Alaska?

In Alaska, the court may appoint a guardian for an unmarried minor child “if all parental rights of custody have been terminated or suspended by circumstances or prior court order.”  The court may also appoint a guardian for a minor child if the parents died and named a guardian in their will.

Any adult whose appointment would be in the best interests of the minor may be appointed guardian. However, an adult family member has priority. Additionally, if the minor child is over 14 years old then the minor child may nominate who they want as guardian. The court “must appoint the person nominated by the minor unless the court finds it is contrary to the minor’s best interests.”

How Guardianship Works for Minor Children

A guardianship for a minor child is only valid until the turns 18 years old. Once a guardian is appointed for a minor child, they have many powers and responsibilities akin to those of a parent. The only exception is that a guardian does not have to provide for the minor child from their own funds. 

Full guardianship

As discussed in the previous section, a full guardian has total decision-making responsibilities for the minor child. 

Temporary guardianship

Also as discussed in the previous section, a temporary guardian is appointed by the court on a temporary basis. This is specifically for emergency situations, and they’re supposed to be limited or one-time periods. 

How Guardianship Works for Older Adults

Just because a person is old, does not mean that they need a guardian. In order for a guardian to be appointed, the adult must be incapicitated. People need guardians for all different reasons. 

In Alaska, an incapacitated person is “a person whose ability to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions is impaired for reasons other than minority to the extent that the person lacks the ability to provide the essential requirements for the person's physical health or safety without court-ordered assistance.”

Full guardianship

As discussed in the previous sections, a full guardian has total decision-making responsibilities for the adult. Additionally, in Alaska, the full guardian of an adult also has the powers of a conservator, which will be discussed in more detail in a later section.

Partial guardianship

If an older adult is able to make decisions and provide for certain areas of their life, but not others, then a partial guardianship may be appropriate. Unlike a full guardianship, the partial guardian can only make decisions about limited issues as outlined by the court. 

For example, a partial guardian may be allowed to make decisions about a ward’s services but not their medical care. When the guardian is petitioning the court, they would only need to show how the older adult needs help with services. 

How Guardianship Works for Adults With Developmental Disabilities or Special Needs

When a person turns 18 in Alaska, they are considered an adult regardless of developmental disabilities or special needs. If you are petitioning for guardianship of an adult with a developmental disability or special needs, you will need to show that the adult is incapacitated. Incapiciatated means that the adult cannot provide for their physical health or safety without court-ordered help. Incapacity can have many causes. 

Full guardianship

As previously discussed, full guardianship means the guardian makes decisions about housing, medical care, legal issues, and services for the adult. Additionally, as mentioned above, the full guardian of an adult also has the powers of a conservator.

Partial guardianship

A partial guardian does not have all the powers and responsibilities of a full guardian. Their powers and duties are limited to those functions and needs that the adult cannot meet on their own.

Frequently Asked Questions: Guardianship in Alaska

There are many different scenarios when a guardian may be appointed. In each situation, you will have many questions. Below we will answer some of the frequently asked questions about guardianship in Alaska. 

How long is temporary guardianship in Alaska?

Temporary guardianship expires in Alaska when either of the following occurs: 

  • The court appoints a regular guardian
  • The court dismisses the petition for appointment of guardian

What’s the difference between guardianship, conservatorship, and custody in Alaska?

Guardianship, conservatorship, and custody are three related but different terms. They all describe the relationship between two individuals, usually between a responsible, adult person and an incapitated person and/or minor child. 

In Alaska, a guardianship is a “legal arrangement where the court appoints a person or institution as a guardian to make decisions for an incapacitated person, and/or a child.” The guardian makes decisions about the following:

  • Housing
  • Medical care
  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues
  • Services

A conservatorship is a “legal arrangement where the court appoints a person or institution to handle the financial affairs for another person because that person cannot handle these matters.” This means that a conservatorship is limited to only the ward’s financial matters. However, if you recall from the previous section, in Alaska “a full guardian of an adult automatically has the powers of a conservator.”

Custody is generally used to refer to the legal arrangement of parents regarding the care of their children. A custody arrangement usually occurs after a divorce or separation, but can also be put in place for parents who were never married. In Alaska, it is even possible to have non-parent custody.

There are two different types of custody, physical and legal. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Legal custody refers to the parent’s decision-making rights with regard to the child. 

Can you get guardianship without going to court in Alaska?

No, in Alaska it is not possible to get guardianship without going to court because a guardian is appointed by the court.

However, a parent or guardian may be able to delegate their powers to another. This delegation does not create a guardianship and does not exceed one year.

You do not have to act alone

The guardianship process can be complicated and may feel overwhelming. You do not have to go through the process alone. If you have questions about the guardianship process, you should consult with an experienced attorney. The attorney can answer your questions and may even be able to guide you through the guardianship process. 

There are many different legal resources available in Alaska. Your community may even offer free or discounted legal services. Contact your local court or the Alaska Bar Association for more information about legal resources in Alaska.

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