If an adult is unable to make decisions or take care of their personal or financial affairs, their loved ones may decide to pursue guardianship. A guardianship is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints a person, called the guardian, to take care of these items for another person, called the ward. The legal role of a guardian for an adult ward is very much like the legal role a parent has for their child, but there are key differences.
Types of guardianship
There are two types of guardianship that are helpful to understand.
A guardianship of the person allows the guardian to make decisions for the ward’s well-being and care, like healthcare, education, and housing.
A guardianship of the estate allows the guardian to manage the ward’s financial assets, including paying their bills, managing their investments and protecting their financial interests.
Guardianships can be temporary or permanent and the guardian’s authority will be limited to reflect the ward’s needs. The guardian has a legal responsibility to act in the ward’s best interest and will need to make regular reports to the court.
The first step is to file a petition for guardianship with the court and notify all interested parties, including the proposed ward. The court may appoint an independent evaluator to determine whether guardianship is needed.
The court will hold a hearing to review evidence and grant guardianship, if it is appropriate. Over time, the guardianship can be modified if the ward’s circumstances change. Sometimes, it may also need to be modified if the guardian needs to move or cannot meet their obligations due to illness or age, for example.