The probate courts’ jurisdiction extends beyond simply overseeing the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. One of the more important functions of the probate courts is to grant Letters of Guardianship or Conservatorship to minors or individuals adjudged to be incapacitated. Guardianship refers to the personal care of an individual that usually occurs on a day-to-day basis; Conservatorship refers to the handling of finances. Out of simplicity, and the gridlock that can result if the Guardian and Conservator are different people, the same person usually is appointed Guardian and Conservator.
Granting these letters for someone who is incapacitated is easy: upon proper petition, a probate court will grant legal authority to an individual to care for a disabled individual.
Said Letters for minors, however, will only be granted in limited circumstances: “(1) Where the minor has no parent living; or (2) Where there is a natural guardian of the minor and where the court finds that the best interests of the minor require letters of conservatorship for all of his estate […] Letters of guardianship of the person of a minor may be granted in the following cases: (1) Where a minor has no parent living; (2) Where the parents or the sole surviving parent of a minor are unwilling, unable or adjudged unfit to assume the duties of guardianship; (3) Where the parents or the sole surviving parent have had their parental rights terminated under chapter 211. [Termination of Parental Rights]”
Because the State of Missouri has a special interest in the care and maturation of minors, once Letters of Guardianship or Conservatorship for a minor are granted, they are subject to revocation or modification. Some of the more common ways the Letters are terminated is when a minor turns 18 and ceases to be a minor, when a temporary incapacity subsides, when the guardian petitions the Court for a revocation, and — in typical fashion — when the best interests of the child requires it.