Nevada "Guardianship" Laws


In Nevada, courts can appoint a guardian to make decisions on another person's behalf. The person with a guardian is called a “ward.”

Nevada's laws on guardianship are set forth in Chapter 159 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. NRS 159 sets forth three basic types of guardianships:

  1. "Guardians over the person." These guardians make personal decisions for a ward;
  2. “Guardians over the estate.” These guardians make financial decisions about a ward's assets; and
  3. “Guardians over the person and estate.” These guardians make both personal and financial decisions.1

To help you better understand Nevada guardianship laws, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss the following, below:

dejected little girl sitting on floor with her head in her hands

1. When does a court grant guardianship in Nevada?

Nevada courts typically grant guardianships in two situations:

  1. When an adult is incompetent (for instance, because of mental illness); or
  2. When a parent is unable to care for his or her children under 18.

2. Types of guardianships in Nevada

Nevada law recognizes three basic types of guardians:

  1. "Guardians over the person.” These guardians are responsible for decisions involving the ward's support, healthcare, and education.
  2. “Guardians over the estate.” These guardians are responsible for financial decisions involving the ward's assets.
  3. “Guardians over the person and estate.” These guardians make both personal and financial decisions for the ward.2

One person can serve as both guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. Or different people can take each role.

3. “General” vs. “special” guardianships in Nevada

Most guardianships in Nevada are “general” guardianships. A “general guardianship” is one that is expected to last indefinitely.

A court may also grant a “special guardianship of limited capacity.”

A "special guardianship" may be obtained if the adult can make some -- but not all -- decisions about their own care.

In this type of guardianship, the guardian makes only some decisions about the ward's care.3

responsible woman sitting behind computer with pen in hand

4. Who can be a guardian in Nevada?

Guardians in Nevada must be adults at least 18 years of age.

If the ward is a minor child, the court will give preference to a relative.

If the ward is an adult, the ward's choice for a guardian will receive preference. If the ward has not stated a preference, courts will give preference to a close relative.4

5. Who is disqualified from serving as a guardian in Nevada?

A court will usually not name someone a guardian if that person:

  • Is unable to provide for the basic needs of the ward;
  • Has habitually used alcohol or any controlled substance (other than medical marijuana) during the previous 6 months;
  • Has been judicially determined to have committed abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation or abandonment of another person;
  • Has been convicted of a felony; or
  • Has been disbarred or had a professional license suspended by the state of Nevada.5

6. Can more than one person have guardianship over a ward in Nevada?

In rare cases, Nevada law allows “co-guardianship.” In this type of guardianship, two or more people share the responsibilities for the ward.6

7. Will the court ever make a stranger a guardian?

A Nevada court may appoint a public guardian when:

  • It is an emergency, or
  • A proposed ward has no suitable family member or friend to serve as guardian.7
judge in chambers banging gavel on desk

8. What is a Nevada guardian “ad litem”?

A guardian “ad litem” is a special kind of guardian in Nevada. A guardian ad litem represents the ward's interest in one or more lawsuits.8

Courts most often appoint a guardian ad litem to represent:

  • Children under 18, or
  • Adults who are unable to represent their own interests due to an incapacity.

Common types of cases in which Nevada courts appoint guardians ad litem include:

  • Custody disputes, and
  • Child or adult abuse hearings.

9. Procedure to get a guardianship in Nevada

Would-be guardians must petition the court in the county where the proposed ward lives. The court will then hold a hearing to determine whether the guardianship would be in the ward's best interests.9

The burden of proof is on the person filing the petition. Numerous conditions must be fulfilled. One is that no less restrictive form of intervention is available. Another is that the proposed guardian is qualified.

The court will conduct a hearing to consider the issues. Expert testimony from physicians, psychologists, and social workers may be needed.

Whether you are a petitioner or a proposed ward, an experienced Las Vegas family lawyer can make sure your rights are protected.

10. How long do Nevada guardianship proceedings take?

Las Vegas guardianship proceedings normally take 2-3 months. But in an emergency, a Nevada court can appoint a “temporary guardian” based on an expedited hearing.

11. Temporary guardianship in Nevada

To obtain temporary guardianship, a petitioner must show that the proposed ward:

  1. Faces a substantial and immediate risk of financial loss or physical harm;
  2. Needs immediate medical attention; and
  3. Lacks the ability to respond to the loss, harm or need for medical attention.10
Example: Joanne's uncle Ray has early onset dementia. He lives alone in the house he and his now-deceased wife share. Most of the time he can take care of himself. But sometimes he forgets to pay his bills.

During a streak of very cold weather, Joanne goes to check on Ray. She finds that his heat and electricity have been turned off. The house is freezing and Ray is ill. Ray refuses to leave, however.

Joanne goes to court and petitions for a temporary emergency guardianship of Ray. The court gives her temporary control over Ray's finances and persons. Joanne gets Ray's utilities turned back on and arranges for a nurse's aide to live with him. Ray gradually recovers and is able to take care of himself again.
senior man in wooly hat pouring himself a glass of vodka

12. What are the duties of a guardian “over the person”?

In a guardianship over the person, the guardian makes personal decisions that affect the ward. Such decisions can include:

  • Supplying food, clothing, shelter and other necessaries;
  • Authorizing appropriate medical and dental treatment; and
  • Seeing that the ward receives an education.11

13. What are the duties of a guardian “over the estate”?

A guardian over the estate makes decisions about the ward's finances. Such decisions can include managing the ward's:

  • Money,
  • Income,
  • Real and personal property,
  • Stocks and bonds, and
  • Other financial interests.

A guardian of the estate does not have absolute power to control the ward's assets and finances. The guardian must get the court's approval before spending the ward's money or selling any property.

14. Financial obligations of a guardian over the estate

Guardians of the estate in Nevada have significant obligations. Some of these include:

  • Posting a bond with the court to ensure against mishandling the ward's funds;
  • Placing the ward's money in a “blocked account” that no one can access without a court order;
  • Providing an inventory of the ward's assets within 60 days; and
  • Filing an annual accounting detailing the ward's income, assets, and expenses.12

If the estate is worth less than $5,000, the court may waive the annual accounting. This is known as a Nevada “summary guardianship."

15. Limits on a guardian's powers in Nevada

Guardians in Nevada cannot do certain things without court approval. These include:

  • Moving the ward out of Nevada;
  • Placing the ward in a secured, long-term, residential care facility;
  • Spending or investing the ward's money;
  • Selling the ward's home or other real property;
  • Obtaining potentially life-threatening medical treatment for the ward;
  • Committing the ward to a psychiatric facility without an involuntary admission proceeding;
  • Making or changing the ward's will; or
  • Terminating the guardianship.13

16. Are guardians entitled to a fee in Nevada?

A guardian of the person is not entitled to a fee. The court may approve reimbursement of the guardian's expenses such as room and board.

A guardian of the estate is entitled to a fee.

For more information, please consult with a knowledgeable Las Vegas family lawyer.

17. When do guardianships end in Nevada?

Guardianships over children usually last until the ward turns 18. But the court may extend the guardianship until the child finishes high school or turns 19 (whichever occurs first).14

Guardianships over adults last until:

  • The ward dies, or
  • The ward regains the ability to make his/her own decisions.

Both guardians and adult wards can request that courts terminate a guardianship earlier if it is no longer needed.15

18. How can a Las Vegas guardianship attorney help?

Guardians have a great deal of power over wards. They also have significant legal obligations.

Courts may a guardian only when no less restrictive form of intervention is available. The burden of proof is on the person filing the petition for guardianship.

A Las Vegas family law attorney can help protect your rights whether you are a petitioner or a potential ward.

Need help with a guardianship in Las Vegas? Call us…

female receptionist

If you are considering guardianship in Las Vegas we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring Las Vegas family lawyers work hard to protect the rights of wards, guardians and their loved ones.

Call us at 702-333-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or complete the form on the this page to speak to a lawyer.

Your consultation is FREE and completely confidential.


Legal references:

  1. NRS 159.0487.
  2. Same.
  3. NRS 159.0801.
  4. NRS 159.0613 (1).
  5. NRS 159.0613 (2) and (8).
  6. NRS 159.0613 (3).
  7. NRS 159.0613 (7).
  8. NRS 159.0455; NRS 159.095.
  9. NRS 159.044.
  10. NRS 159.052 . See also NRS 159.047.
  11. NRS 159.079.
  12. NRS 159.065; NRS 159.081; NRS 159.083; NRS 159.085.
  13. NRS 159.078; NRS 159.079; NRS 159.0805.
  14. NRS 159.191.
  15. NRS 159.1905.

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