The Purpose of Legal Guardianships

The law always encourages an individual to manage his or her affairs as much as possible. However, in circumstances when someone is not capable of taking care of all aspects of life, be it in personal care or financial matters, the law allows legal guardianships. In a guardianship, the guardian appointed by the court takes care of the ward, who is the person in need.

One type of guardianship is guardianship of the person, in which the guardian takes personal care of the ward, much like a parent's relationship to a minor child. The guardian may make decisions regarding support, education and religious attendance and training. The court will also look to rights the ward can keep, such as the right to vote and the right to decide daily meals, depending on the ward's capabilities.

The other type of guardianship is guardianship of the estate, where the guardian takes care of the ward's finances where the ward cannot. A guardian can have control of both the ward's person and estate, if that is in the ward's best interest, or just one type of guardianship. The court always appoints a guardian with the best interests of the ward in mind.

After being appointed guardian, the guardian has a fiduciary duty to the ward - that is, he or she must always act in the best interests of the ward. If the guardian fails to do so, he or she can be removed as guardian and face criminal and civil penalties. Often the fear a guardian will breach this fiduciary duty is the reason for contested guardianships.

Common Persons in Need of a Guardian

A court can appoint a ward for a variety of reasons. A court can appoint a guardian to a minor child when he or she does not have a capable parent able to care for them. Adults can also be wards, but anyone proposing guardianship for an adult must show the court why a guardian is needed. Typical reasons an adult may need a guardian include:

  • A person with special needs, such as those suffering from autism, down syndrome or other affliction that prevents the adult from capably handling personal and financial matters
  • An adult with catastrophic injuries
  • Older adults with declining mental capacity, such as those suffering from alzheimer's disease or dementia

If any of the above reasons for a guardianship applies to you or a loved one, contact an attorney experienced in handling legal guardianships. An attorney can help you navigate the court system and allow you to care for a loved one in all necessary ways, while allowing the ward freedom to do things he or she is capable of doing.

How Can We Help?