What is a Guardianship?

In New Mexico, there are several different types of Guardianship. This website is for Adult Guardianship and/or Conservatorship cases which involves a person over the age of 18 years old that cannot manage their own personal, medical or financial matters due to disability, mental illness, disease, chronic substance or alcohol abuse.

How is Guardianship Used?

  •  as is necessary to promote and to protect the well being of the person;
  •  designed to encourage the development of maximum self reliance and independence of the person; and
  •  shall be ordered only to the extent necessitated by the person’s actual functional mental and physical limitations.

How is a Guardian and/or Conservator Appointed?

There are many legal steps in the adult guardianship and conservatorship process. A person who may need a guardian and/or a conservator appointed is called an alleged incapacitated person. While the legal process may seem complex, it is meant to ensure that there are multiple checks and balances in place to protect the alleged incapacitated person’s legal and civil rights.

Generally speaking, there are 3 steps in the adult guardianship and conservatorship process:

  • Step 1 – Filing of the Petition. A petition is a legal document that starts a case. A petition for guardianship/conservatorship is filed in the District Court by any interested party. Due to the complex nature of these cases, there is no standard form (petition) available for use by the general public. You should consult with an attorney if you wish to file a petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship for another adult. An attorney can review whether there are options, other than guardianship, that could be helpful in your situation.
  • Step 2 – Appointment of Professionals. The law requires that three (3) professionals are appointed in adult guardianship and conservatorship cases. These professionals are: Guardian ad litem (GAL), a qualified health care professional and a visitor. These professionals have different roles but each of these professionals is required to file a report with the court.
  • Step 3 – Court Hearing. Every petition must have a court hearing scheduled. At the hearing, the judge hears testimony from different people. The alleged incapacitated person is required to attend this hearing. A guardian and/or a conservator can only be appointed after the judge receives written reports from all 3 professionals, holds a hearing, hears testimony and considers all of the evidence. Just because a petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship has been filed does not mean that a judge will automatically appoint a guardian and/or a conservator.

Role of a Guardian and/or Conservator

Guardians and conservators are individuals (often family members), companies or organizations appointed by a judge to make decisions for another adult. The adult under guardianship/conservatorship is called a protected person. An adult is placed under guardianship/conservatorship if a judge has found that the protected person is unable to manage their finances, property, health care or living arrangements on their own.

guardian may help manage the protected person’s healthcare needs, medical appointments and housing. A conservator may help manage the protected person’s finances, investments and properties. The exact duties of a guardian and conservator are customized to the needs of the protected person. The duties of a guardian and a conservator are outlined in the judge’s order that appoints a guardian and/or conservator.