A Guardianship is the process by which an individual or qualified entity obtains court authority to protect the rights or the property of an individual who has been determined by the court to be unable to provide for his person or to manage his property or financial affairs.
Guardianships are useful in many circumstances. For the parent or relative of a person over eighteen (18) years of age and having a developmental disability, a guardianship will allow the parent or relative to gain control, authority and protection over that individual. This is especially important with regard to medical issues and the guardian’s ability to give informed consent for medical treatment for the disabled person.
A guardianship can be established for the person only, the estate only, or the person and estate of the incapacitated person. A guardianship of the person covers personal services of the incapacitated individual such as living arrangements, transportation, medical services, and informed consent for necessary medical procedures.
Guardianship of the estate generally covers financial and contractual matters. The court also has the option of appointing a limited guardian of the person only, estate only, or a limited guardian of the person and estate for an individual. A limited guardianship acknowledges that the incapacitated individual has some decision-making abilities and specifically limits the powers of the limited guardian to assist the incapacitated individual only in those areas where he or she needs help.
The court has the power to make a guardianship last indefinitely. A guardianship will continue until terminated by court order. This happens when a determination is made by the court that the incapacitated person is no longer incapacitated, the guardianship is no longer necessary because a minor has reached 18 years of age, or if the incapacitated person dies. Anyone, including the incapacitated person, may petition the court at any time to modify or terminate the guardianship.