Guardianship and Conservatorship Court in Minnesota

Clients often ask me what they can expect at the court hearing on the petition for guardianship and conservatorship.  Caveat – this applies to uncontested hearings.  Contested hearings are completely different – and are typically like a trial where the rules of evidence apply.  Even with uncontested hearings, there is a caveat.  And that is that each county and indeed, each judge, does things differently.  But in general, for an uncontested hearing on a petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship, you can expect the following:

  • Once your case is called the hearing itself is very short.  Typically less than 10 minutes.
  • The petitioner and the respondent (person for whom guardianship is being sought) and their attorneys are present.
  • Testimony is taken from the Petitioner to “prove up” the guardianship petition. This is usually a series of leading questions that establish the contents of the petition – including who the parties are and why a guardianship and/or conservatorship is necessary.
  • The Physician’s Statement (if there is one) and the Court Visitor’s report are made part of the record
  • The Court asks the Respondent’s attorney for the Respondent’s position on the matter.  Typically the Respondent’s attorney will give a statement about the contact that was made with the Respondent, the preferences the Respondent expressed and any other due diligence that the attorney did to ensure that guardianship is necessary and appropriate.
  • The Court will then order guardianship/conservatorship and sign the Order and Letters.  There is sometimes a delay with signing these if the background study is not back, or if bond needs to be put in place (for conservatorships).

If you have specific questions about guardianship and conservatorship court in Minnesota, please feel free to reach out to me.

Privacy in Guardianship Court Proceedings

I am frequently asked if guardianship court hearings are public proceedings.  The short answer is “Yes”.  However, there is a statutory provision that allows the Court to close the proceeding (make the hearing closed to the public) in limited circumstances.

Minn. Stat. 524.5-307 provides that “the hearing . . . may be closed at the request of the respondent and a showing of good cause.”

So who can make the request to close the hearing?  The request must be made by, or on behalf of, the respondent (the person for whom guardianship is sought).  If the respondent isn’t in a position to ask that the hearing be closed, his attorney or an interested party speaking on his behalf should make the request to the court.

What are some things that might be “good cause” to close the hearing?

  • Particularly sensitive or embarrassing information that will come out during the course of the hearing.  It’s probably NOT sufficient to say that medical information will be discussed, because that happens in virtually every guardianship proceeding. But if there is medical information that is extremely sensitive, it may be enough to constitute “good cause”.
  • Behaviors of the respondent that are triggered/exasperated by a crowd.  Sometimes a respondent has a diagnoses that causes behaviors or extreme anxiety around crowds or strangers. In cases like these, the Court may close the hearing, so that the respondent isn’t extremely agitated during the hearing.
  • Being a minor. Since other proceedings involving minors are closed (juvenile court, CHIPS proceedings), the Court often times will close minor guardianship or conservatorship hearings.
  • Other situations that are extremely sensitive, embarassing or that would be detrimental to the respondent’s health, safety and well-being if open/public hearing was to proceed.

 

Are guardianship proceedings in Minnesota public?

The default is that guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in Minnesota are public.  However guardianship hearings may be closed to the public in some situations.  Minnesota Statute 524.5-307 allows the court to close the hearing “upon the request of the respondent and a showing of good cause.”  Examples of when a request to close a hearing would be appropriate include: when the circumstances leading to the guardianship petition are extremely sensitive in nature – either because of medical conditions or behaviors alleged to be exhibited by the Respondent or others involved in the hearing.