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What is a guardian and why is a guardian appointed?

A guardian is a person appointed by the court to act on behalf of a person who is considered legally incompetent. A person is presumed to be competent. However, someone can file a petition for guardianship with the court detailing why the person needs a guardian. Medical testimony by a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist may be introduced to show the person’s incapacity to care of himself/herself and his/her property. If the court finds that the person is incapable of making health, personal, or financial decisions due to illness or disability, the court will appoint a guardian. The incompetent person is called the ward.

Are there different types of guardianship?

The court decides how much authority the guardian will have. The court can appoint a temporary guardian in an emergency situation. The temporary guardianship lasts for a set period of time or until the court determines the emergency has ended or a permanent guardian has been appointed. The court can appoint a permanent guardian to make decisions about the incompetent person’s personal needs or medical care. The court might also appoint another permanent guardian to oversee the incompetent person’s financial matters and property. A general guardian is a person appointed by the court to oversee both the personal and financial matters of the incompetent person. A successor guardian is one who is appointed to replace a guardian who has resigned or been removed.

Who can be a guardian?

The court can appoint an adult family member or a family friend as guardian. In the case of a minor, the court will often appoint one or both of the parents as co-guardians unless the minor objects. In the case of a married adult, the court will often appoint the spouse as guardian, but it is not required to do so.

What are a guardian’s responsibilities?

The court may require the guardian to post a bond to assure the performance of his/her duties. In addition, the guardian is required to file annual reports and accounts detailing any expenditure on behalf of the ward. The guardian has a duty to keep the ward’s property in good repair, to protect the ward’s assets, and to carefully invest the ward’s resources. The guardian must consult the court before making any major decisions affecting the ward.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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