What Is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal relationship that gives one or more individuals the power to make medical and financial decisions for an adult deemed incompetent by a court. Often the person who needs care is an aging family member.

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia rob people of the ability to think clearly. In these circumstances, a guardian can act for the afflicted person. In a guardianship, the protected person is referred to as a ward.

How Is a Guardianship Established?

A guardianship is established by a court. The court must declare a person incompetent and appoint a guardian. The person alleged to be incompetent has a right to an attorney and to object to the arrangement.

What Is the Purpose of a Guardianship?

Guardianships are designed to protect the well-being of incapacitated adults. A court bases its declaration of incompetency on expert findings.

Court-appointed guardians manage the medical, financial and living arrangements of their wards. A guardianship may include limited or broad authority. Different guardians may be appointed to handle specific areas, such as health or finances.

What Are the Duties of a Guardian?

A guardian has a legal duty to act in the best interest of the person they’re appointed to protect. A guardian seeks out the opinions and desires of the ward whenever possible and must act according to the directions of the court.

A ward is stripped of many rights. Wards can’t vote, marry, sell property, enter into contracts or make medical decisions for themselves. Because of the gravity of these losses, guardianships are often thought of as a last resort.

The court has the authority to change the scope, duration or existence of a guardianship. Guardians are held to a high standard of accountability. Their responsibilities include the following areas:

  • Living arrangements
  • Nursing and daily care
  • Financial decisions
  • Sale of assets such as real estate
  • Medical care, including end-of-life decisions
  • Reporting at least annually to the court

Northwest Legal Advocates Provides Informed, Compassionate Advice

Establishing a guardianship may take time and can be complicated if family members have differing opinions. Informed legal counsel helps you navigate the process.

We understand that making arrangements for the care of an aging loved one can be emotional. We’ll guide you with compassion.

If a family member can no longer participate in his or her own care, call Northwest Legal Advocates. Our experienced attorneys will help you decide if guardianship is right for your family.