A legal guardian is a person who assumes legal responsibility for another person. The legal guardian is permitted to make important legal decisions on behalf of the person, including:
- Medical decisions
- Financial decisions
- Contract agreements
- Various other legally binding statements
The act of assuming legal guardianship is regulated by guardianship laws. These dictate who can become a legal guardianship, and also regulate the manner in which guardianship is to be executed.
When Does Legal Guardianship Become an Issue?
Legal guardianship most typically comes about in relation to issues of child custody. In cases where the natural parent or parents of a child become incapacitated or unable to care for them, a legal guardian may be appointed for the child. Such legal guardianship arrangements often expire once the child becomes of legal age (18 years old in most states).
Legal guardianship may also become necessary for adults who have become incapacitated or are not able to make legal decisions on their own. This is common for elderly persons and persons who have a debilitating medical condition.
Who May Become a Legal Guardian?
Courts usually appoint the following persons as legal guardians:
- Close family relatives, such as a grandparent, or aunt/uncle
- Family friends and acquaintances
- Persons specifically chosen to act as a guardian
In generally, the legal guardian must be physically, mentally, and financially able to perform their duties as a legal guardian. They must usually have a good record of conduct and must not be financially motivated in their service as guardian. Becoming a legal guardian generally requires a filing with the court and a review process by a judge and social workers.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Guardianship Issues?
Legal guardianship is a major responsibility and definitely requires court approval and supervision. You may need to hire a lawyer if you need help becoming or obtaining a legal guardian. Your attorney can instruct you on how the guardianship laws in your area operate, and will be able to advise you on your rights and responsibilities.