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A guardian is someone who is chosen, either by a court or by being named in a will, to make decisions for someone else when that person—generally referred to as the ward—cannot do the same for him or herself. These types of decisions include: giving consent to medical care or treatment; purchasing or arranging for purchase of such necessities as food, clothes, cars, household items, and other personal items; arranging for education; and managing finances and bank accounts.

A guardianship requires that someone act on behalf of and protect the ward during the period of time when the ward is incapable of doing so. When asking the court appoints a guardian in a particular situation, the court must be sure that the potential ward is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for him or herself because of a mental or physical disability, disease, or addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The fact that potential wards are minors who lack someone to make certain decisions on their behalf until they reach the age of majority is also sufficient reason to ask the court to appoint a guardian.

The selection of a guardian is an extremely important task. Certain people, with ties to the ward, are preferred by courts as possible guardians. These include the person designated by the ward, before the period of incapacity occurred, by legal document or otherwise to handle his or her affairs; the spouse; parents; or another relative; or a state employee or private person familiar with the ward and the incapacity at issue. Whoever is chosen by the court must be willing and able to perform the duties at hand and to represent the best interests of the ward. In selecting the guardian, the court considers the prospective guardian’s character, history, physical capacity, and other relevant attributes. A potential guardian’s limited education or financial resources are not disqualifying conditions in and of themselves.

The guardianship statutes of each state detail the specific duties, responsibilities, and powers of the guardian. They should be examined in order to determine the regulations that apply to each situation.

If an individual becomes unable to handle his or her own affairs there are two major areas of concern. These are the individual’s physical welfare decisions and the management of the individual’s finances. A guardianship is the appointment of an individual to provide care and to make personal decisions for a minor or incapacitated person. A guardian may be nominated by a Will, by a Trust document, or by any via a petition with the court. The person for whom a guardian is appointed is called a ward. Generally, the ward cannot provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself welfare without assistance. A conservatorship is the appointment of an individual or a corporation with trustee powers, to manage the financial affairs of a minor or other person who cannot manage his or her own financial matters. A conservator is not authorized to make decisions regarding the personal care as a guardian does. The person for whom a conservator is appointed is called a protected person. The court may appoint a conservator for a single transaction or indefinitely. A person may need a guardian or a conservator or both and the same person can be appointed in both capacities.

Inside Guardianships