According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the legal definition of a guardian is, âOne who has, or is legally appointed to, the care and management of another, usually a minor.â While it is true that guardians are normally appointed to minors in need of proper care, they may also be appointed to elderly adults that are unable to continue caring for themselves. In either case, the guardian is appointed and regulated by state and local statutes. They are trusted and expected to provide the appropriate, adequate care for those they have guardianship over.
Guardianship of a Minor
There are many reasons a minor may be appointed a legal guardian; death of the parents, the parents are physically incapacitated, the parents have been incarcerated, the parents have been deemed unfit for parenthood, or the parents have chosen to give up their parental rights to their child. Whatever the reason may be, every child deserves a guardian who can provide a home, food, an education, love, etc.
When a guardian is appointed by the courts, they are given full legal and physical custody of the child. This means they are given the rights to make decisions regarding finances, education, medical treatment, etc. on the child’s behalf. The guardian retains these rights until the child turns 18 years old. Many times guardianship is granted to a family member looking to keep the child within the bonds of the family
Guardianship of an Adult
As we get older, our ability to care for ourselves begins to dwindle. When an adult has reached a point where they are physically or mentally unable to care for their own basic needs, they may need someone to step in as a guardian. This is typically a more long term solution; however, temporary guardians or emergency guardians may be appointed to make immediate necessary medical or financial decisions until the adult is able to regain the ability to make those decisions themselves.
Many time in adult guardianship cases, the courts require medical records or affidavits as well as an evaluation that proves the individual can no longer provide the necessary care for themselves. Oftentimes, the person seeking to take responsibility for the adult is a relative.
Unfortunately not all adults who may be in need of a legal guardian believe this is the case. If they fight the appointment of a guardian, a trial may be necessary.
What’s The Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship?
It is common to hear the words guardianship and conservatorship used interchangeably, and while they are similar, there are a few key differences. A guardian is given all rights and responsibilities to act on behalf of the individual and regarding their personal affairs. A conservatorship does many of the same things; however, their responsibilities are limited to the financial and property needs and affairs of the person. In both a guardianship and conservatorship, any number of people may hold the title over the individual needing care.
When pursuing guardianship for either a minor or an incapacitated adult, it is best to consult an attorney to make sure that the proper procedures are followed, that the correct forms are filled out, and that a legally sound agreement is formed. Situations surrounding guardianships can often be sensitive and should be treated as such. This duty should also be taken very seriously. While there is much responsibility in caring for the well-being of another individual, it also comes with a great reward and the formation of a great bond.