A guardianship is a legal relationship created by a court between a guardian and his or her ward, either a minor child or an incapacitated adult. The guardian has a legal right and duty to care for the ward. This may involve making personal decisions on his or her behalf, managing property, or both. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability.

A guardianship, also referred to as conservatorship, is a legal process, used when a person can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about his/her person and/or property or has become susceptible to fraud or undue influence. A guardianship is also used for minors in certain circumstances.

Because establishing a guardianship and/or conservatorship may remove considerable rights from an individual, it should only be considered after alternatives to guardianship and/or conservatorship have proven ineffective or are unavailable.

Alternatives to guardianship may include:

  • Representatives or substitute payees
  • Case/care management
  • Health care surrogacy
  • Trusts
  • Durable powers of attorney for property and health care
  • Living Wills
  • Community advocacy systems
  • Joint checking accounts
  • Community agencies/services

Alternatives to conservatorship may include:

  • Durable power of attorney
  • Joint checking accounts
  • Trusts