Aging & Health A to Z
Basic Facts & Information
What is a Guardianship?
Some older people cannot manage their finances or provide themselves with food and shelter. Sometimes, relatives or friends make informal arrangements to help these individuals. In other cases, a capable person has executed a durable power of attorney that appointed another person to handle his or her affairs. In still other cases, it is necessary to ask the courts to appoint a guardian, as when property must be managed or sold to pay for long-term care.
In guardianship hearings, relatives or other petitioners (eg, social service agencies or health care providers) must demonstrate that the person is no longer able to safely manage his or her affairs and needs. If the person is found incompetent or incapacitated, the court appoints a guardian.
All states allow the courts to establish limited guardianships (also called conservatorships) and unlimited guardianships (also called committeeships). A limited guardianship gives the guardian the power to take charge of a specific area that the older person is no longer able to manage (such as, finances). An unlimited guardianship strips the older person of all legal authority and gives the guardian the power to make all the decisions about the older person’s life in matters that affect property, residence, medical care, and personal relationships. Most states prefer limited guardianships, because an unlimited guardianship requires that the court find that the person is legally incompetent or incapacitated in all areas of decision making.
Update: March 2012
Posted: March 2012