Jury Trial or Bench Hearing

Prior to 2018, Kentucky required a jury trial for all guardianship cases.  Now the respondent has the option of a bench hearing.  If all parties agree, the case can be decided by a judge at a bench hearing without the involvement of a jury.

At least two weeks before the hearing the District Courts will send notice of the hearing date to the petitioner, respondent, the person who applied to be guardian, the person who has custody of the respondent and the respondents next of kin.

The respondent must be present at the hearing unless the court determines it would subject them to serious risk of harm.

The hearing date is usually set at about 60 days after a petition has been filed.  Additional time can be requested, if necessary.

What happens at the court hearing?

The hearing may be closed to the public.  The court might also remove itself to the respondent’s residence.  In situations where a client is bed bound, the courts could come to the client’s residence.  During the hearing the courts will make an effort to question the respondent on their preference for guardian.

If the case is heard by a jury, the jury will decide if the respondent is wholly disabled, partially disabled, or not disabled in making their personal decisions.  Then the jury will make the same determination regarding the respondent’s ability to make financial decisions.

If the jury finds the respondent disabled in any way, the judge will decide which rights the respondent will keep and which rights will be removed. The judge will also make the final decision on who will be appointed as guardian.

The right to vote is determined separately by the judge after the jury has made their findings.  A respondent found wholly disabled can still retain the right to vote.

If the case is heard at a bench hearing, the judge will hear the testimony and make a judgment.