Guardianship and Conservatorship

A guardian is a person appointed by the court to be entrusted with the care and management of a minor or incapacitated person.  “An incapacitated person” is an adult who is impaired by a mental or physical ailment, or by a chemical dependency, to such an extent that the person is unable to make or communicate responsible decisions regarding important matters, or to an extent which endangers that person’s health of safety. 

When a guardianship order is issued, it establishes the guardian’s duties on behalf of the “ward.”  A ward is the person who receives the guardianship services.  There are many other possible rights and duties that a guardian may exercise or for which they may be responsible.  However, the guardianship order confers upon the guardian only the powers and duties specifically set out in the court’s order. 

Any person or entity interested in a minor or incapacitated person’s welfare may petition for an appointment of a guardian.  One exception to this rule is that any group, institution or agency providing care and/or having custody of the proposed ward may not be appointed guardian.  However, if no one else can be found to be guardian, an employee of the care provider may be appointed guardian if they do not directly provide care to the ward. 

When a guardian is appointed, the ward has many rights attendant to this relationship.  The guardian must only be vested with such powers and duties as are necessary in relation to the ward’s particular needs.  The ward must retain the highest possible degree of personal freedom and control over his or her life.  As the purpose of the guardian is to provide assistance to the ward regarding those things the ward is unable to do, if the guardian is either no longer necessary, or if a new guardian needs to be appointed, either the ward or any interested person may petition for such an effect.  A guardian may also resign.  If the ward has property to be managed, then a conservator can also be appointed with power over the ward’s assets.