A guardian or conservator is an individual who is legally responsible for a person (called a ward) who is unable to manage his or her own affairs. The guardian or conservator is appointed by a judge and is able to make a variety of important decisions on behalf of the ward. This individual is called on to protect the ward and their property. Depending upon the specific terms of the agreement, as well as a state’s rules overseeing this designation, a guardian might be able to make legal, financial, and health care decisions on behalf of the ward. By comparison, a conservator is appointed by the court to handle financial considerations.
In general, a person who is a ward of a conservator forfeits their right to enter into contractual agreements to consent to medical treatment or to reside in their own dwelling. A ward who is under guardianship is unable to marry, to contract, consent to medical treatment or to establish or change residency.
Who Needs a Guardian or Conservator?
While the standards for determining the need for a guardian or conservator vary from state to state, typically it will be ordered if an individual demonstrates an inability to make reliable decisions on their own behalf. It is important to point out, that if a person makes bad choices this does not mean they need a guardian. It must be proven that they are unable to act in their own best interest.
A guardianship can be requested by any party who believes it is in the ward’s best interest. This party will likely hire an attorney to file the petition in a probate court in the county in which the potential ward is currently residing. Upon filing the petition, a hearing will be held to determine what is in the best interest of the individual.
Who Can Be a Guardian?
A guardian can be any competent adult. Often it is a spouse or other family member, however it can also be a family friend, neighbor, or in some cases a professional guardian. If there is no reliable person able to take on the role, guardianship might be appointed to a public or private agency that is able to act in the best interest of the ward.
Working through the details of a guardianship or conservatorship requires skilled legal representation. Contact Attorney Bryan B. Johnson to discuss your options.