What is a guardianship? How is a guardian appointed?

A guardianship exists when the court appoints a person (the guardian) to exercise all or some control over another individual's person and/or property. The appointment is usually made when an individual (the ward) is incapable of managing his or her own affairs. 

An individual, through their attorney, files for a guardian to be appointed for a minor or an adult who is not mentally capable of taking care of himself/herself. When a guardianship petition is filed on an adult, an accompanying petition to determine incapacity is simultaneously filed as a separate proceeding in the Probate Department. The court will appoint a committee to evaluate the person and file their report with the court. The exception to this would be a guardian advocate petition. These petitions are for persons who are developmentally disabled. With these petitions, there is no requirement for the ward to be examined by a committee. Therefore, there will be no accompanying Mental Health file. Guardians can be appointed as guardian of the person only, property only, or person and property.

Guardianships are also filed for minors when the minor child has inherited money or property in excess of $15,000 from a deceased relative or received money from a settlement in excess of $15,000. In this case, a guardian of the property is all that is needed if the minor child's parents are living. If a minor child's parents are deceased or unable to be appointed guardian, he/she may need a guardian of the person and property.

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