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What is Adult Guardianship?

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Do you have an aging loved one, who has dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease? Or, has your loved one become mentally or physically incapacitated to the point where they are unable to manage some, if not all of their personal affairs? If your loved one is unable to fully care for themselves due to aging, an accident, or an illness, they may benefit by the court establishing an adult guardianship.

“What is adult guardianship?” An adult guardianship refers to a relationship established by the court between someone (called the ward) who needs help managing their affairs, and an individual (called the guardian) who volunteers to help the person in need.

Who Needs a Guardian?

Some youngsters with childhood diseases, severe autism, and other disabilities may need a guardian for their entire adult life. A perfectly healthy adult may sustain a brain injury in a car accident, or they may need a guardian after they have become severely disabled due to an injury or illness. Others will succumb to aging and will need a guardian to help them manage their affairs.

Most frequently, guardianships become permanent, rather than being temporary events. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, when someone is hospitalized in a coma and they eventually make a full recovery. Or, when someone’s brain injury heals to the point where they can return to work and manage their personal finances again.

A guardian’s responsibilities are determined by the court, and may include:

  • Meeting legal responsibilities established by law and the court.
  • Paying the ward’s monthly bills.
  • Filing the ward’s taxes.
  • Making responsible decisions about the ward’s assets.
  • Ensuring the ward’s medical and living needs are taken care of to the ward’s financial ability.
  • Filing annual accountings and reports with the court.

Note: In many circumstances, guardians are required to ask for the court’s approval before they can take an action that will affect the ward’s well-being or financial status. Also, guardians typically cannot place wards in mental health facilities, nor can they force wards to take medication.

Guardians generally have limitations. They are not responsible for: 1) bad decisions made by the ward, 2) illegal acts committed by the ward, 3) the ward’s past debt, 4) personally supporting the ward, and 5) personally supervising the ward 24 hours a day.

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