When you file papers asking to be a guardian, you have to “serve” a copy of the Petition and the Citation on the adult who needs a guardian, many of the adult's relatives, and possibly some other agencies. The court does not serve these documents for you; you must make sure they are properly served. Visit this section to find out how to properly serve the relatives and any other required agencies.
What to Serve
You must send a copy of the Petition (the document you filled out asking to be named the guardian) and the Citation (the document that sets a court hearing) to the adult, the required relatives, and agencies.
Who to Serve
You must serve everyone listed in Exhibit A of the Petition, plus some other people if applicable.
The people you must serve generally includes the person you are asking to be the guardian over (the "proposed protected person"), their spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and older grandchildren (age 14 and older). If the adult is in a hospital or care facility, or receiving Medicaid or Veteran's benefits, those agencies must be notified as well. A full list of the people you must serve is on the Who Must Be Told About a Guardianship page. Make sure you serve all of the required people, or your case may be delayed!
Many guardianships are delayed because not all relatives and required agencies are properly notified. Be sure to serve the Petition and the Citation on all of the required people and agencies before the hearing, and file your proof of service so the judge knows all the right people were notified of the hearing.
How to Serve
The adult you want to be the guardian over has to be personally served. All other people requiring notice can be served using other methods. There are three ways to serve people:
- By certified mail, return receipt requested. You can send the documents by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 20 days before the hearing. When you mail the documents, use the "green cards" at the post office. You will receive the “green receipts” back from the post office when people sign for the mail. When you get the cards back, complete the Certificate of Mailing indicating which relatives were served, when, and to what addresses. Tape the green receipts to a blank sheet of paper and attach them to the Certificate of Mailing. File the Certificate of Mailing at the court.
Certificate of Mailing (pdf fillable) Certificate of Mailing (pdf)
- By personal service. You can have a neutral person hand-deliver the documents to any of the required people. This must be done at least 10 days before the hearing. A separate Affidavit of Service must be completed for each relative that is personally served, and the Affidavit of Service must be filed at the court.
Declaration of Service (pdf fillable) Declaration of Service (pdf)
- By a signed waiver of service. If a person is willing to accept a copy of the Petition and the Citation without being formally served, the person can sign a “Consent and Waiver of Service.” All consents must be filed with the court.
Consent and Waiver of Service (pdf fillable) Consent and Waiver of Service (pdf)
What if I Don’t Know Where Some of the Relatives Are?
You must do everything you can to locate any missing relatives. Contact friends, family members, employers, coworkers, or anyone who might know where the relatives can be found. Search for the relatives online through social networking sites and by email. You can also check the Post Office for forwarding information. Check with any source that might lead you to a good address for the relative. This is called doing your “due diligence.”
If you still cannot find the relatives, you can ask the Court to waive service on the relatives, or instead, for permission to publish the citation in a newspaper and mail a copy of the citation and the petition to the relative’s last known address. You will have to detail all of the efforts you made to find the missing relative.
To ask the Court to waive service or to allow publication, follow these steps:
- Mail a copy of the Petition and Citation to the last known address you have for each relative. You must send the Petition and the Citation to each person's last known address by regular mail.
- After mailing the Petition and Citation, fill out the following forms. Fill out the forms in the packet below. You must complete a SEPARATE Affidavit of Due Diligence for each relative that you cannot find, so download as many extras of those as you need.
Declaration to Waive Service or Alternatively, for Service by Publication (pdf fillable) Declaration to Waive Service or Alternatively, for Service by Publication (pdf)
Declaration of Due Diligence (pdf fillable) Declaration of Due Diligence (pdf) - fill out a separate form for each relative
Order for Service by Publication (pdf fillable) Order for Service by Publication (pdf)
Order to Waive Service (pdf fillable) Order to Waive Service (pdf)
- File all of the affidavits with the Court
- Submit the proposed Orders to the judge. Bring both orders to the courthouse and ask where to turn them in for your judge. The judge's staff will contact you after the judge has had a chance to review your paperwork.
- Wait for your answer. If the judge believes that you have done enough and the relatives truly cannot be found, the judge will sign one or both of the orders to waive service or require you to serve by publication. If not, you will receive a memo from the judge's staff letting you know what needs to be fixed.
- If the judge signs your Order to Serve by Publication, contact a newspaper to arrange for publication. You will have to provide the newspaper with a copy of the Citation (that includes the names of ALL the relatives you are serving by publication) and the Order to Serve by Publication. The citation must be published once a week for 3 consecutive weeks. The last date of publication must be at least 20 days before the hearing in your case.
- Make sure the Affidavit of Publication is filed with the court. The newspaper may file this for you, but if they do not, be sure to ask for a copy of the Affidavit of Publication and file it yourself.
If you know that some relatives will have to be served by publication, be sure to ask the clerk to set your hearing far enough out so that you will have enough time to finish publication before the hearing. If there is not enough time to complete publication before a hearing that you already have scheduled, set a new hearing date before you begin publication.
Once the relatives have been served, you will need to prepare for the hearing with the judge. Visit the Guardianship Hearing page to learn how to prepare for your hearing and find out what to expect at the hearing.