A guardianship is established because of an individual’s inability to act on his or her own behalf.

It is a legal arrangement under which one person, the guardian, has the legal right and duty to care for another person (the ward) and the ward’s property. Guardianship is often over a child or an individual who has become incapacitated through age or disability

A guardian is someone who's chosen -- either by a court or by being named in a legal document such as a will -- to make decisions for someone (generally referred to as the "ward") who can't make decisions for him or herself.

The types of decisions that a guardian might make include:

  • Giving consent to medical care or treatment;
  • Purchasing or arranging for purchase of such necessities as food, clothes, cars, household items, and other personal items;
  • Arranging for education; and
  • Managing finances and bank accounts.

The selection of a guardian is an extremely important task. People with ties to the ward are preferred as possible guardians by courts. These include:

  • A person designated by the ward -- by legal document or otherwise -- to handle his or her affairs, before the period of incapacity occurred
  • A spouse
  • Parent(s) or another relative
  • A state employee or private person familiar with the ward and the incapacity at issue