October 12, 2018

Adult Guardianship: Protecting The People You Care About

by Logan K. Philipps, Resch, Root & Philipps, LLC

When a person turns 18, in the eyes of the law, they are considered an adult and legally responsible to make decisions for him or herself. If a person is not capable of making decisions or caring for themselves independently, a decision-making framework is necessary to support the individual so that they can live as happily, safely and independently as possible.

This type of situation often occurs when an individual with disabilities turns 18, or when a senior citizen suffers from dementia or other disabilities related to aging. A common misconception is that guardianship is the only solution when, in fact, a spectrum of alternatives including guardianship exist.

A guardianship is a court-ordered relationship in which one adult is authorized to make decisions for and act on behalf of another adult person. A guardianship is often established so that either a single parent or parents are authorized to make decisions for and act on behalf of an adult child, or an adult child can make decisions for their aged parent(s). A familial relationship is not a prerequisite for a guardianship; another responsible adult can serve as guardian.

A guardianship removes rights from the ward (the adult for whom the guardianship is established). Certain rights can be maintained, but the ward’s ability to act under their own power or make decisions is significantly curtailed. The type and scope of the guardianship determines what rights and abilities the ward loses.

It’s important to determine the advantages and disadvantages of each option when pursuing the establishment of a guardianship. The ideal outcome of guardianship is that it creates security and a strong support system for the ward while also maintaining the ward’s dignity and appropriate independence.