A guardianship is a legal tool that allows one or more person or entity to make decisions for the benefit of another person (the ward). Courts are tasked with establishing guardianships. Guardians are appointed by the court and are granted legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of the ward, with the scope of authority being determined by the court. Generally, a guardian is appointed by the court in instances of incapacity or disability, or when the ward is a minor.
Because guardianships are established by the courts, a petition to appoint a guardian must be filed. Typically, an attorney hired by a family member, friend or other interested party (such as a Healthcare Facility or the local Department of Social Services), must file the petition with the court and provide evidence from physicians, family or friends that the potential ward is in need of a guardian. Guardianship proceedings contain various safeguards meant to protect the incapacitated, disabled or minor individual from abusive practices and parties. The parties involved and interests protected often dictate whether the guardianship proceedings will be short and smooth, or long and complicated.
Family members and friends often volunteer to serve as guardians with good intentions and a desire to assist the ward in managing his/her personal and financial affairs. A guardian must act as a fiduciary of the ward and act in the ward’s best interest, with the intent to preserve the ward’s property and to use the assets for the ward’s benefit and welfare. In the event that there is no family member or friend able and willing to function as a guardian of the ward, a public guardian will be appointed. A public guardian has the same authority as a private guardian, and must meet additional local reporting and quality control requirements.
Guardianships can be messy and complicated, and they require the necessary legal knowledge. Our lawyers are ready to lead you through these sensitive proceedings.