Certain situations may make an individual unable to care for him- or herself for any number of reasons. Physical incapacity, illness, mental health issues, and other circumstances may warrant an individual to require the services of a guardian. A minor child with no surviving parents is also likely to require the designation of a guardian.
Guardians are often appointed by a court but can also be designated through voluntary action or spelled out in such legal documents as a will. However, the voluntary desgination of a guardian must have occurred before the onset of cases of mental illness or psychological incapacity.
The underlying concept in the establishment of guardianship statutes is to allow the person being served by the guardian (the ward) to receive necessary services and care while also being able to maintain an appropriate level of independence. Of course, each individual case is different, and the duties and level of stewardship provided by the guardian is governed by the level of need.
Each state has its own set of statutes regarding legal guardianship, including who may be appointed to serve in this position. For example, certain states require that in the cases of minor children, the court must designate the person selected by the ward unless it can establish that the individual selected does not represent the best interest of the child.
Certain court-appointed guardianships are intended to be temporary in nature. For example, a person may designate a guardian to serve in that role while undergoing certain medical treatments or while suffering from a treatable illness. So, too, the guardianship of a minor child will expire when that child reaches the designated age of majority in that jurisdiction.
As our population ages, more and more families are seeing the need for guardianship designation and the legal benefits it affords. However, this is a complicated and ever-changing area of the law, and consultation with the attorney, who has an expertise in this practice area, is always advisable.