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What to know about guardianships

Who will look after your minor children or incapacitated adult family members? This is where a guardianship comes in. Your will should include a person or entity listed as a guardian to make sure your loved ones are taken care of in the event you pass away or are unable to care for your children or an adult with special needs.

In some cases, a guardianship will need to be appointed by the court if a guardian was never listed or if special circumstances arise that require a new guardian to be appointed.

What is a guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal appointment by the court to help a minor or incapacitated adult. The court appoints a guardian to the ward, the minor or incapacitated adult, to help make personal decisions and care for the ward.

A will can also list someone as a guardian to care for any minor children or incapacitated adult. Naming a guardian in a will makes sure a child or special needs adult will be looked after according to the family’s wishes.

An individual or entity can be appointed as a guardian by the court to make sure the ward’s best interests are protected. Minors age 14 or older are able to nominate someone as a guardian, but the court would still need to appoint this person as their guardian.

Guardians are required to provide personal background information to the court before they can be appointed official by the court. The court will review the guardian’s background for any felonies, previous experience as a guardian and other specific information that is relevant to the appointment.

What does a guardian do?

A guardian is responsible for making personal decisions for the welfare of the ward, similar to parental responsibilities. This can include making decisions regarding living arrangements, education, medical care and treatment and social activities. As a guardian, you are required to always put the ward’s best interests first.

The guardian is also required to provide a written report to the court every year documenting the health, welfare and living conditions of the ward. This report must also include a medical report by the ward’s physician.

Parents and individuals should consider listing a guardian to look after their minor children or incapacitated adult under their care before it’s too late. An attorney can help parents understand what issues to consider when listing or getting someone appointed as guardian.

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