How Guardianship Works


Sometimes you run out of time to ‘plan ahead’ when it comes to someone’s decision making authority. If someone takes a quick turn for the worse and is suddenly no longer  able to act in his or her own best interest, then a guardianship will become necessary. This process requires an experienced elder law attorney. 

“A guardian is a court-appointed adult who takes care of a person who is unable to take care of his- or herself. The person the guardian takes care of is called a “ward.”

When a court appoints a guardian to take care of an adult, it is usually because the ward has physical or mental disabilities that limit the person’s ability for self-care. Courts also appoint guardians for children whose parents can no longer care for them. Often a court-appointed guardian is a relative, spouse, or friend. But a guardian can also be a lawyer, a professional guardian, a private organization, or state-run agency. The court makes a decision based on what is best for the ward,” explains Betsy Hannibal

  • Guardian of the Estate: provides the authority to make financial decisions, including paying or collecting debts, managing investments and making purchases
  • Guardianship of the Person: authority to manage the ward’s personal affairs, including where they live, medical care decisions and choices about food, clothing, recreation and personal care
  • Guardianship of the Person and Estate: comprehensive guardianship, with authority to make all decisions on the ward’s behalf
  • Limited Guardianship: restricts the powers granted to the guardian to only those areas where there is a need, such as for a medical care decision
  • Co-Guardianship: more than one individual may serve equally as guardians                                                                Definitions by Judy Malmon