What is Guardianship?

Guardianship refers to the legal arrangement that designates a person or institution to care for minor children or incompetent adults, known as wards. Guardians typically control the ward’s living arrangements, education, income, and health care. Simply put, the appointed guardian is responsible for the care and well-being of the ward as well as his or her financial matters, in some cases. In a number of jurisdictions, managing the financial affairs of a ward is known as a conservatorship. 

The guardian is legally required to act in the best interest of the ward and they cannot benefit whatsoever at their expense. Since the guardians are given almost full control over another life, they are subject to intense scrutiny by the court. They are often obliged to provide legal statements and documents proving they are acting as reliable guardians.

Although guardianship is similar to power of attorney in that both legally obligate one to make decisions on behalf of another person, the two relationships are actually quite different. This is because an individual has the ability to choose to whom they would like to grant power of attorney. However, on the other hand, the court chooses the guardian. Additionally, the guardian may have more control over a person’s life as opposed to power of attorney, where their discretion can be limited to specific fields such as healthcare or finances.

Key Takeaways

  • Guardianship is the legal relationship created when an individual or entity is given responsibility to care for a minor child or incapable adult.
  • Guardians manage the child or adult’s finances, which can grant them the title of conservator. 
  • The court closely supervises guardianships to make sure the guardian is acting in the best interest of the ward (the child or incapable adult).
  • Family members do not usually receive compensation for guardianship, but professional guardians often collect reimbursement.

Types of Guardianship

Guardianship of the Person: In this type of guardianship, the guardian is liable for the care and wellbeing of the ward. In these cases, the guardian is authorized to make legal decisions on behalf of the individual, including issues regarding health care, housing and education.

Guardianship of the Estate: A guardian over the estate is responsible for the ward’s financial matters. This includes managing their income, property and other relevant assets. This type of guardianship does not offer the guardian any power over non-financial related decisions regarding the ward’s life.

General Guardianship: In these cases, the individual or entity is considered both the guardian of the person and the guardian over the estate. This allows the guardian to decide on all legal matters in the ward’s life as well as their finances.

Bottom Line

In summary, guardians and conservators assume major tasks in another person’s life. From deciding where the ward will live to choosing how he or she will spend their income, guardianship is a serious role not to be taken lightly. If you are dealing with issues concerning guardianship, it is highly recommended to hire a family lawyer with experience in the matter. Family law attorneys can help you obtain legal guardianship, petition the court to change the guardianship, and terminate a guardianship. 

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