When you love someone who is unable to care for himself or herself, such as your special needs adult child, you can ask the court to appoint you as a guardian to take care of that individual. Your special needs adult child, or a loved one who is no longer able to take care of him or herself, is considered “incapacitated.” When the court appoints a guardian, that person is then legally able to make decisions for the incapacitated person. The legal term for someone who has a guardian is a “ward.” A ward is someone who cannot make or communicate reasonable decisions regarding his/her own health and daily living matters. The guardian’s role is to protect the ward’s welfare and look out for the ward’s best interest.
The probate court is the type of court that appoints people as guardians. Most people think probate court only handles the affairs of people who have died. However, the probate court also handles guardianships. A guardian can be a relative, friend or private fiduciary. A private fiduciary is a licensed person or entity that may legally act as a guardian for someone and is compensated financially to act in this role.
What Does a Guardian Do?
Naturally, being a guardian for an adult is a significant responsibility. The role of guardian is very much like the role of a parent. The ward’s best interest is the main concern. A guardian is entrusted to help the ward to be as independent as possible and to have the best quality of life attainable. All medical decisions, daily living decisions and life style decisions are made by the guardian for the ward. When a guardianship is granted, it can either allow or disallow a ward’s ability to keep or get a driver’s license and to vote.
Guardians decide many small and significant choices for the ward:
- Living arrangements
- Social activities
- Health care and medical treatments
Once someone becomes a guardian, he/she must submit a report once a year that lets the probate court know how the ward is doing. It is a simple form. A note from a doctor, saying that the doctor has seen the ward in the past year, must be included. Also, a guardian is required to notify the probate court of any address change of the guardian or the ward. There is no need to attend a hearing each year. One hearing, to establish the guardianship, and one to end the guardianship, is all that is required.
How A Guardianship Attorney Can Help
Adults who have executed a valid Health Care Power of Attorney, Mental Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will often do not require a guardianship appointment. At my firm, I prepare these documents as a standard part of an estate plan for my clients. When these documents are not in place, for whatever reason, the only option is to go to the probate court.
If you believe your loved one needs a guardian, you can learn the next steps by reaching out to my office. I can help you sort out what you need and how to go about getting a guardianship in place. Contact me today to get started.