In order to protect the interests of elderly or incapacitated individuals, courts can appoint guardians or conservators. However, certain steps must be taken before a guardian is appointed because the creation of a guardianship may deprive an individual of some personal rights. Before a guardianship proceeding begins, an individual has a right to notice of the proceeding and to representation by counsel. If the court appoints guardian, the guardian is directed to respect the ward’s wishes and give the ward as much autonomy as possible. Guardianship of an elderly or incapacitated individual may include guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, or both.
Guardianship of the person requires the guardian to make decisions regarding the care and support of the elderly or incapacitated individual. The guardian may be required to consent to and monitor medical treatment as well as monitor the ward’s living condition. The guardian is expected to consider the ward’s wishes and desires, as well as their physical and financial needs when making decisions. The guardianship continues until the ward dies or until the court determines that the guardianship is no longer necessary.
Guardianship of the estate requires the guardian to assume responsibility for the ward’s property. The guardian is required to take steps to preserve and protect assets, obtain appraisals of property, and distribute income. The guardian is also required to keep the court continuously informed of the status of the estate. The financial guardianship continues until the ward dies or until the court determines that the individual no longer requires a legal guardian.