When an injury or health condition leaves an adult unable to manage their own legal, medical or financial affairs, guardianship provides a way for a relative or other trusted person to take care of them. Serving as a guardian can be an important, necessary and loving thing to do, but a guardian is also a person who has a lot of power over another person. The role of a guardian can be easily abused.
With all this in mind, courts are very careful when approving guardianships. One way they can keep the powers of a guardian in check is through creating a limited guardianship.
Types of guardianships
Guardianships are intended to care for people who are incapacitated. However, there are different levels of incapacity and different levels of guardianship.
If the court considers the person completely incapacitated, it may approve a plenary guardianship. This type of relationship gives the guardian broad authority to make decisions about the person’s life, including their legal, medical and financial affairs.
If the person is unable to make certain types of decisions on their own, but can make others, the court may approve a limited guardianship. This type of guardianship is tailored to the unique circumstances of the people involved.
For instance, in some cases, a vulnerable person may wish to retain the right to choose where they live, but the court recognizes that the person no longer has the capacity to make decisions about their finances or medical care. In such a case, the court might approve a limited guardianship, giving the guardian broad powers to make decisions about the person’s life, but allowing the vulnerable party to choose their own residence.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea for families to start planning for guardianship before it becomes necessary. An attorney with experience in elder law may help them review their options.