What is a guardian?

A guardian is a person who is legally responsible for someone who is unable to manage their own affairs because of age, poor health or other extenuating circumstances.

Deeper definition

A legal guardian is most commonly associated with a disabled person, an adult who has become incompetent and cannot handle his or her own affairs, or a child whose parents have died.

  • For an adult, a guardian is named only when a court decides that the person lacks the capacity to make good decisions regarding personal or financial matters.
  • The guardian of a child takes care of the everyday things a child needs, including food, housing, medical care and education. Guardianship of a child ends: when the child turns 18; when the child enters into an adult relationship, such as marriage; if the guardian is removed by a court or was appointed only temporarily. outlines the qualifications for any guardian:

  • Must be over the age of 18, and never convicted of a felony.
  • Has not been declared disabled.
  • Can be a professional guardian who is not a relative.
  • May be a public or private institution, as long as it does not provide services to the individual in question.
  • Can be a financial institution (for estate matters only).

In some states, there is a preference for a family member to act as guardian. Most states do not have education or experience requirements, but some provide assistance through training sessions and other resources.

A guardian is entitled to reasonable compensation. Family members frequently choose to act as guardians without compensation, but a professional not related by marriage or blood does receive financial compensation.

Guardian examples

In terms of law, parents are natural guardians for their children.

An adult needing a guardian might be an elderly man who spends his life’s savings on magazine subscriptions in a matter of months. He might require a guardian to oversee his financial well-being.

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