Guardianship is a significant responsibility. As a guardian, you are appointed by the court to help make key life decisions for another adult individual. This individual, sometimes referred to as the ward, must be incapacitated, meaning they lack the understanding or ability to care for themselves.

So, what types of powers might a guardian be granted?

The scope of a guardian’s powers

Guardianships are not one-size-fits-all. The court has the ability to carve out specific roles for an appointed guardian, based on the capabilities of the ward. These powers can include:

  • Deciding where the person lives
  • Ensuring they have food, clothing and shelter
  • Helping them apply for benefits
  • Facilitating care to support their well-being
  • Authorizing or refusing certain medical treatment
  • Taking care of belongings, such as vehicles or furniture
  • In limited circumstances, a guardian might also have a small financial role

Limited vs. full

A guardian might have only a few select responsibilities. For example, they may be tasked with overseeing the ward’s living situation and belongings, but not be given any power in regard to other decisions. This type of guardianship is often referred to as “limited.”

You might also see the term “full guardian.” This does not mean the person has unlimited, unchecked power.  A guardian has a duty to act according to the known wishes, preferences and desires of the ward. That includes information made known in the past, as well as current input. If a ward is able to understand the ramifications of a major decision, the guardian should consult them.

Guardianship is not a tool the court takes lightly. It will not be granted simply because an older or ailing adult needs a little help. Rather, the court must believe a guardian is necessary to ensure the individual is cared for.