In a probate proceeding, the court often appoints a guardian ad litem.  The appointment of a guardian ad litem, commonly referred to as a GAL, should not be confused with the appointment of a guardian.

guardian is a person appointed by a probate court and given the power and responsibility to make certain decisions about the care of a protected person.  In contrast, a guardian ad litem, is appointed to act in a lawsuit or proceeding on behalf of a child or a person incapable of representing themselves.

The guardian ad litem, who is usually an attorney, is responsible for visiting the protected person, explaining the process, the protected person’s rights, and determining the wishes of the protected person.  The guardian ad litem files a report to the court regarding their visit and the protected person’s wishes.

What is often confusing to many clients, is that when a petition is filed to request the appointment of a guardian, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and report to the court the appropriateness of the appointment.  For many, the similarities in names, guardian and guardian ad litem, is confusing.

For a guardianship or conservatorship petition, the GAL plays an important role in the process.

The following are some important tips when working with a guardian ad litem:

  1. Be the first to contact the GAL. Remember the rule of primacy.
  2. Get all information to the GAL quickly to give enough time to prepare for the hearing and to avoid an adjournment.
  3. Discuss the GAL’s role relative to your matter
  4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the GAL about their recommendation
  5. Ask about the GAL’s fee and address how it is to be paid