Guardianships for Adults, Minors, and Persons with Disabilities
A guardian is appointed through a legal proceeding to care for another person’s interests and property. A guardian is related or unrelated to an individual that has been deemed by the court to be an incapacitated person, a minor, or a physically disabled adult in need of legal oversight. They are authorized to make health care decisions, manage assets, and living arrangements according to the person’s needs. If a person is determined to be partially incapacitated, a guardian is appointed with limited authority.
Guardianship for an Adult
A guardian is assigned for an adult with diminished mental capacity or physical limitations that renders them unable to make competent decisions or manage their daily living activities. Impaired mental and physical functioning can be the result of severe, long, or short term medically diagnosed conditions. Some examples of these ailments are dementia, mental illness, strokes, genetic disorders, or traumatic brain injuries.
The role of a legal guardian for an incapacitated adult can include the following:
- End of life decisions.
- Fiduciary duty to manage finances.
- Apply for public assistance as needed.
- Distribution of personal property.
- Provide appropriate living arrangements.
The process of appointing a guardian is a formal judicial proceeding. The court assesses the need for legal oversight and the petitioner’s ability to act on behalf of that person. After filing a petition for guardianship, there is an assessment of the person’s physical, mental, and functional abilities and limitations. Once a need for a guardian is established, those suitable for the role are persons over 18, with no criminal history. Often, a family member or friend will petition the court for legal guardianship due to their emotional attachment and familiarity with the person in need. A not-for-profit organization or a financial institution can serve as a guardian, with limited powers. A guardian can be a life-time appointment or until the person has regained capacity and can manage their affairs.