Frequently Asked Questions
What is Guardianship?
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.
What is 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.
What is Guardianship of a Minor?
Courts may appoint an adult guardian to care for a minor, who is not the child of the adult. Courts assign guardianships in a number of situations, including when parents have abandoned a minor, when a minor's parents have died, or when a minor's parents are incapable of providing proper care for the minor. A legal guardian may be a friend, family member, or other person the court feels will act in the minor's best interest. As the minor's legal guardian, an adult may be granted physical custody of the minor, or they may act as a financial guardian who exercises control over the minor's property. In limited cases, an adult may be appointed by the court to serve as a guardian ad litem.
An adult with legal custody of a minor has the responsibility to provide for the minor's physical and personal needs. While the minor's parents are legally required to continue financial support of the minor, the legal guardian must ensure that the minor receives food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care. The legal guardian has the right to consent for the minor and make all decisions regarding the minor's health and education. A legal guardian will maintain custody of the minor until the minor reaches the age of eighteen, or until a judge determines that the minor no longer needs a guardian. 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.