guardianship crc

Understanding Guardianship: Who Needs Guardianship, and Why?


If you have a loved one that is elderly, disabled, or incapable of managing their own financial affairs, it may be time for them to consider guardianship. Guardianship is the legal procedure of appointing someone to take over the decision-making ability of an incapacitated person and can provide peace of mind for you, your loved ones, and their estate. After reading this article, we hope you have a better understanding of whether a guardianship is needed for your loved one, how it can help provide them with the care they need, and how to begin the conversation with your legal counsel.

What is a guardian and who can be one?

Guardianship is a legal relationship in which a minor or incapacitated person is protected by a guardian who has legal power and/or responsibility over the personal and property interests of the minor or adult, legally referred to as a ward. In this case, the appointed guardian would manage all financial, personal, and medical decisions on behalf of the ward.

A family member is most commonly appointed guardian, though a professional guardian or public trustee may be appointed if there are no suitable family members available. Whether it is a family member or a legal appointee, a guardian is obligated by ethical and statutory rules to always make decisions in the ward’s best interest.

Who needs a guardian?

Guardians can serve children, adults, and seniors, depending on their situation and ability to care for themselves. When there is no parent or family member that is able to care for a loved one, a legal guardian can step in to protect assets and lend care. One is example is if a minor’s parents have deceased, they will then need a guardian to manage their estate until they reach the adult age of 18.

The most common situation for a guardian, however, is when an adult or senior that is incapacitated due to mental illness or disease is inhibited from making decisions for themselves. This can be from an injury, accident, or debilitating illnesses that come with aging, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental disabilities.

Additionally, the extent of guardianship can range based on your loved one’s needs. For example, if your loved one has learning disabilities but can manage the majority of their affairs, they may need assistance from a guardian in only some areas, such as managing their estate. This is called a limited adult guardianship. For individuals who appoint all of their rights to their guardian for both of person and property, this is called a plenary guardianship.

How do guardians work with case managers?

Case managers are the point of contact in a person’s care team that leads point on medical care, service providers, and sometimes legal care. Their role is often to plan and execute a life care plan that will result in their clients’ highest quality of life, while helping make informed decisions along the way. They will often have a medical or social work background and use their education, experience, and training to advocate for their patients.

Case managers and guardians can work together effectively by collaboratively make the best decisions for the client/ward. In some cases, the dedicated case manager may be the liaison for all medical-related inquiries, while the guardian will be the point person for legal or estate-related decisions. Both case managers and guardians share the same goal, however, to provide the best possible care for their client/ward. To learn more about case management, and the benefits of having a case manager, read our article here.

If you believe that your loved one may need a guardian, or if you are looking for more information on our case management services, contact us today.