While the purpose of all guardianships is similar, they tend to differ based on the type of ward involved.
Minor: This guardianship is very common, and it often occurs do to the inability of the parents to care for the child. Here, the minor is living with the guardian on a daily basis in the vast majority of cases. A guardian’s powers are, essentially, those of a parent, and the guardian, essentially, becomes the parent for the ward. The guardian makes all basic decisions for the minor including medical decisions that may affect his or her life. The guardian is usually a relative though that is not a requirement.
Incapacitated Adult: Where the guardian of the minor becomes, in essence, the parent, the guardian of an adult becomes, essentially, the caretaker. The adult ward is often an individual with some kind of disability, or an elderly individual no longer able to care for his or her daily needs. Again, usually a family member will act as the guardian. However, the adult ward does not always live with guardian, but, like a minor, the guardian makes all basic decisions for the adult ward, including medical decisions that may affect his or her life.
Further, if the adult ward has sufficient property, then a conservator may need to be appointed. The person appointed guardian is not automatically the conservator as well. Sometimes, it is necessary to have different people handle the different duties. Further, if the ward has substantial property, it may be necessary to have a financial institution, such as the trust department of a bank, oversee the ward’s finances.
A relative or any concerned individual can initiate guardianship proceedings. These proceedings will require an investigation of some nature to determine the need for a guardianship. Often, a guardian ad litem attorney is appointed to conduct the investigation and help the court determine the need of a guardianship and who should be the guardian. In some cases, a guardianship dispute can result in litigation between a parent and adult children or between different siblings against each other. Some disputes are based on a minor’s well-being, while others are based, sadly, on the property of an elderly parent and who might control it.