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For some members of our society, legal protection may be necessary even after they have entered adulthood.

These individuals may have been injured in an accident, continue to suffer from an incapacitating physical illness or psychological disorder, or have some other condition that prevents them from caring for themselves.

In these cases, a guardianship may be established.

Guardians, Conservators, and Protected Persons

Guardianship or conservatorship is a legal arrangement that places an individual, also known as a ward or protected person, under the supervision of a guardian, or custodian. There are two main types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and conservatorship of the estate or property.

A guardian or conservator is typically a family member, friend, or fiduciary appointed by the court. A protected person can be a minor without a parental guardian or an adult who can no longer make safe and sound decisions about his or her own person or property.  Additionally, a person may be placed under guardianship or conservatorship who is prone to fraud or undue external influence.

While guardianship does attempt to maintain the protected person’s independence, it should only be considered in appropriate cases, as it may significantly impinge upon rights of the individual.

Appointment of a guardian or conservator can materially limit the rights and privileges of the protected individual in areas such as:

Choosing Residence



Making Property Transactions

Obtaining a Driver’s License

Owning, Posessing or Carrying

A Firearm or Other Weapon

Contracting or Filing Law Suits

Making End-of-Life Decisions

Providing Informed Consent

to Medical Treatment

Right to Due Process

To safeguard the protected person’s right to due process, he or she may be entitled to notice of, and ability to attend all legal proceedings related to guardianship or conservatorship.

In addition, the protected person may obtain representation by an attorney, present evidence, and confront and cross-examine all witnesses.

Guardianship of the Person

Guardianship of the person often relegates the following responsibilities to the appointed guardian:

Determining and Maintaining Residence

Providing Informed Consent

To and Supervising Medical Treatment

Consent To and Supervising

Non-Medical Services such as Education, Psychiatric or Behavioral Counseling

Making End-of-Life Decisions

Paying Debts and Other Expenses

Maintaining Protected Person’s Autonomy

As Much as Possible

Conservatorship of the Estate or Property

Conservatorship of the estate or property transfers the following responsibilities to the conservator:

Organizing, Gathering and Protecting Assets

Arranging Appraisals of Property

Making Appropriate Payments

Managing Income from Property

Obtaining Court Approval Prior

To Any Sale of Major Assets

Reporting to the Court

The Estate’s Status on a Regular Basis

Safeguarding Property and Assets

From Loss, Whenever Possible

Some conservatorships are temporary arrangements, meant to protect an incapacitated individual until he or she regains capacity.

Guardianship of Minors

Guardianships may also be used to protect the legal rights of a minor. In the event that a parent is no longer able to act on behalf of his or her child, a guardian, usually a relative, is appointed. Unlike an adoption, under a guardianship, parents may remain responsible for supporting the child financially and they do not necessarily forfeit their parental rights.

A minor may be considered for legal guardianship if his or her parent cannot provide shelter, does not have a steady income, suffers from an illness, or is incarcerated. In most instances, parental approval is sought prior to any legal proceedings.