Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity or disability. A court will appoint a legal guardian to care for an individual, known as a ward, who is in need of special protection. Legal guardians have the legal authority to make decisions for their ward and represent their ward’s personal and financial interests.
Guardianship of an Elderly or Incapacitated Individual
Courts appoint guardians, or conservators, to protect the interests of elderly or incapacitated individuals. Because the creation of a guardianship may deprive an individual of some personal rights, certain steps must be taken before a guardian is appointed. An individual has a right to notice and representation by counsel before a guardianship proceeding. During the proceeding, the individual has the right to attend, confront witnesses and present evidence. If the court appoints a guardian, the guardian is encouraged to respect the ward’s wishes and give the ward as much autonomy as possible. As above, guardianship of an elderly or incapacitated individual may entail guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, or both.
– Guardianship of the person. Guardianship of the person requires the guardian to make decisions regarding the care and support of an elderly or incapacitated individual. The guardian may be required to consent to and monitor medical treatment, arrange professional services, monitor living conditions, and make end-of-life decisions and preparations. When making such decisions, the guardian is expected to consider the ward’s wishes and desires, as well as their physical and financial needs. The guardianship will continue until the ward passes away, or until the court determines that the guardianship is no longer necessary.
– Guardianship of the estate. Guardianship of the estate requires the guardian to assume responsibility for the ward’s personal property. The guardian must take steps to preserve and protect assets, distribute income, and obtain appraisals of property. The guardian must keep the court continuously informed of the status of the estate. Like a personal guardianship, a financial guardianship continues until the ward dies or the court otherwise determines that the individual no longer requires a legal guardian.