What You Need to Know About Being a Legal Guardian for an Adult

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Becoming a guardian to your adult loved one takes a lot of processes and requires a lot of work.

The sad truth is that your adult loved one may experience periods toward the end of life when they cannot make decisions for themselves. 

This could happen due to several reasons mostly related to health problems such as:

  • Dementia
  • Stroke
  • An accident
  • General cognitive decline
  • Other serious medical conditions

In situations such as this, you may have to assume the position of a legal guardian.

What Does it Mean to be an Adult’s Legal Guardian?

As a legal guardian, you will be appointed by the court to make decisions about the medical care, finances, personal care, and other aspects of your loved one’s or ward’s personal life.

This means that decisions made by you have the legal backing of the court. Therefore, the court must take specific steps before you are appointed as a guardian. 

These steps include:

  1. A physician, psychologist, or certified clinical social worker determines that your loved one can’t make responsible decisions concerning their medical care or financial matters.
  2. The court reviews the testimony and the evidence regarding whether your ward is, in fact, disabled. If so, it will determine who should be the guardian.
  3. Then, the court will issue an appropriate court order appointing you (if you are considered appropriate) to serve as the guardian on the court’s behalf.

What Power Does a Legal Guardian Have?

Being a legal guardian can mean different things in different cases. As a guardian, you can either be 

  • a guardian over the estate, 
  • a guardian over the person, 
  • a guardian over the person and estate.

This means that you have the power to make decisions over your wards personal and financial life.

Guardian Over the Person

As a guardian over your loved ones, this means that you will typically have to make decisions about their routine care and personal life. This includes:

  • Dealing with doctors
  • Medicare
  • Medical Insurance
  • Applying for benefits, pensions, and medical coverage

Guardian Over the Estate

Your power as a guardian over the estate of your elderly means that you can make significant financial decisions such as:

  • How best to spend their assets
  • Handling administrative matters  
  • Deciding where they live
  • Safeguarding their property

Guardian Over the Person and Estate

Being a guardian over your ward and estate means that you have the power to make decisions over their personal and financial life.

Overall, your duty as a guardian includes the following as well:

  • Protect, preserve, and insure all non-cash assets of the estate
  • Handling checkbooks
  • Paying household bills
  • Handling mails
  • Collect all debts, rentals, or claims that favor your ward
  • Bring and defend suits by or against your ward

In short, you’re in control of all aspects of their life.

What Can Disqualify You from Becoming a Guardian?

There are various reasons why you may not be qualified as the guardian of a loved one. That is because the court considers a lot of things before appointing a person as a guardian.

If you can’t meet these conditions or there is a person who the court considers more suitable than you are, you may be disqualified.

You can be disqualified from becoming a legal guardian if you:

  • Are a minor
  • Have filed for bankruptcy within the last 7 years.  
  • Have been convicted of a felony
  • Have been suspended/disbarred from the practice of law, accounting, or any other profession that involves the management of money 
  • Committed a crime of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation, or abandonment of a child, spouse, parent, or other adults

The court may also disqualify you if the court determines that you are inexperienced or lack the education to handle your loved one’s business and finances.


Filing for legal guardianship of your loved one can be a long and painful experience, especially if you have other people fighting for custody as well. 

Also, it requires a lot of money and can cause conflict between siblings if you are from a large family.

However, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages because you can adequately care for and manage your loved ones and their possessions.