Whenever individuals can no longer take proper care of themselves, it's often necessary that the courts intervene. The court will (in these circumstances) appoint a "guardian" to act in the best interest and on behalf of the person now incapacitated. This incapacitated individual is called a "ward." The guardian helps the ward manage daily affairs and needs, as well as the ward's finances. The role a guardian plays in their ward's life varies, as it depends on the degree in which the ward is incapacitated.
Guardianships are for Adults and Kids
Minor children cannot legally manage their affairs and therefore are eligible to have a guardian appointed by the courts to take on this responsibility. Also, some children may have physical disabilities or are too young to care for their needs and require a guardian. Normally, a parent acts as their child's guardian. However, when a parent abandons their child or dies, the state court must step in and appoint a guardian for the child.
Adults may also require a guardian when they're no longer able to care for themselves. For instance, an elderly person that suffers from dementia may not remember to pay their bills or take their medications. In this circumstance, the courts can decide that the disabled or ill adult is no longer able to properly take care of themselves and must be considered incapacitated. The court will then make this adult a ward and appoint a qualified guardian.
Estate Vs. Person
A guardian may be appointed to attend to the personal needs of a ward, referred to as a conservatorship or guardianship of a person. On the other hand, a guardian may also be required to oversee the ward's estate. In this type of situation, the guardian looks after the ward's business and financial affairs. The specific terms of these two different types of guardianships vary from state to state. A court may decide to allow one person to oversee both roles, but normally the court will choose to appoint different guardians for each.
General Vs. Limited
Oftentimes, a guardianship is customized to fit the ward's specific circumstances and needs. The courts usually prefer to allow the ward to retain (as much as possible) some control over his or her life. For instance, the court may decide that an adult only needs the guardian to handle business dealings and investments, while leaving household affairs to the ward. In this case, a limited guardianship may be ordered in which the guardian is instructed to manage only certain areas of their ward's life. A court might also limit the amount of a ward's money a guardian is allowed to transfer. If a court chooses not to do this, it is referred to as a general guardianship.
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