Law You Can Use: Guardianships

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What is a guardian?

  • A guardian is a person appointed by a court to be legally responsible a person or a person’s property, if the court has decided that that person cannot make decisions for himself. A person who has a guardian is called a ward.

Why are guardians appointed?

  • Guardians are appointed if a ward cannot make decisions about his health or property because of a legal or medical incapacity. This most times requires a full medical and mental evaluation by a doctor, whose report must be submitted to the court.


Who can serve as a guardian?

  • The probate court will most likely choose a blood relative—like a spouse, child, or parent—if one is available. However, the court can appoint anyone that is nominated, unless there is a reason that that person cannot or should not serve. If no one is nominated, and the ward has no family, the court can choose a guardian from a list of court-approved guardians.

What does a guardian do?

  • There are two types of guardians: guardians of the person, who make medical decisions for the ward, and guardians of the estate, who make financial decisions for the ward.
  • Guardians of the estate may do any of the following tasks:
    • Pay debts of the ward
    • Collect debts owing to the ward
    • Settle accounts or distribute assets on behalf of the ward
    • Deposit incoming funds into the ward’s bank accounts
    • Invest the ward’s funds that are not being used for his health and welfare, and
    • Sell assets for the ward as necessary
  • Guardians of the person may do any of the following tasks:
    • Make personal decisions for the ward like where the ward should live
    • Determine what healthcare needs to be provided for the ward
    • Serve as the guardian or the ward’s minor children
  • The guardian must always act in the ward’s best interest.

How do I appoint a guardian for someone or choose the guardian I want selected, in case I become incompetent?

  • There are documents you can file if you want to make your wishes known about who you would like to serve as your guardian if you become incompetent.
  • There is a formal proceeding by which you can appoint a guardian for someone, even if that person does not think he needs a guardian.
  • Contact our office today if you would like a lawyer’s help!

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