Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 06, 2023

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What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal arrangement that allows a responsible adult to make decisions on behalf of another individual who is unable to make decisions for themselves due to age, disability, or diminished capacity.

The importance of guardianship in estate planning cannot be overstated, as it ensures the well-being of loved ones and helps to manage assets effectively.

Guardianship can take various forms, such as temporary, permanent, limited, or full, depending on the specific needs of the individual and their family.

Reasons for Establishing Guardianship

Protecting Minors

One of the primary reasons for establishing guardianship is to protect minors. If parents die or become incapacitated, a guardian can be appointed to take care of the children and make decisions in their best interests.

Supporting Individuals With Disabilities

Guardianship may also be established for individuals with disabilities who cannot make decisions for themselves. A guardian can help manage their personal, medical, and financial affairs.

Assisting Elderly Persons With Diminished Capacity

As people age, they may experience cognitive decline or other medical issues that prevent them from managing their own affairs. Guardianship can be established to provide support and decision-making assistance for these elderly individuals.

Managing Assets for Someone Who Is Incapacitated

When someone becomes incapacitated due to illness or injury, a guardian can be appointed to manage their assets and ensure that their financial obligations are met.

Reasons for Establishing Guardianship

Selecting a Guardian

Factors to Consider

When selecting a guardian, it's essential to consider factors such as the individual's relationship to the person in need of assistance, their trustworthiness and reliability, and their ability to handle the responsibilities associated with guardianship.

Alternatives to Guardianship

In some cases, alternatives to guardianship may be more suitable. These can include trusts, powers of attorney, or joint accounts, which provide varying levels of control and protection for the individual in need of assistance.

Legal Process of Establishing Guardianship

State-Specific Laws and Requirements

The process of establishing guardianship varies by state, as different jurisdictions have their own laws and requirements. It is essential to familiarize yourself with your state's specific rules and procedures.

Court Involvement

The establishment of guardianship typically involves court intervention. This includes filing a petition, a court investigation, and a hearing where the judge decides whether to appoint the guardian.

Responsibilities and Duties of a Guardian

A guardian has several responsibilities and duties, including financial management, healthcare decisions, and advocating for the best interests of the individual they are responsible for.

Monitoring and Modifying Guardianship

Reporting Requirements

Guardians must comply with reporting requirements, which can include submitting financial statements and providing updates on the individual's well-being.

Periodic Reviews

Courts may conduct periodic reviews to ensure that the guardian is fulfilling their responsibilities and that the individual's needs are being met.

Changing or Terminating Guardianship

Guardianship arrangements can be modified or terminated if circumstances change or if the individual no longer needs assistance.

Guardianship Disputes

Contesting Guardianship Appointments

In some cases, family members or other interested parties may contest the appointment of a guardian, requiring legal intervention to resolve the dispute.

Resolving Disagreements Between Guardians and Wards

Disagreements between guardians and the individuals they are responsible for may arise, necessitating mediation or court intervention to resolve the conflict.

Legal Remedies for Misconduct or Abuse

If a guardian is found to have engaged in misconduct or abuse, legal remedies may be available to protect the individual and hold the guardian accountable.

Guardianship in Estate Planning Documents


When drafting a will, it is crucial to designate a guardian for any minor children or individuals with disabilities. This ensures that the individual's wishes are known and respected, and provides a clear plan for who will take on the responsibility of guardianship.


Trusts can be an effective way to provide for the needs of an individual who may require assistance.

A trustee can be appointed to manage the assets in the trust and distribute them according to the individual's needs, while a separate guardian can be designated to handle non-financial aspects of the individual's care.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney can be used to grant decision-making authority to another individual in the event of incapacity. This legal document can cover financial, healthcare, or personal decisions and provide a level of protection without the need for formal guardianship.

Advance Healthcare Directives

Advance healthcare directives, also known as living wills, allow an individual to specify their healthcare preferences and designate a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.

This can prevent the need for court-appointed guardianship for medical decisions.

Guardianship in Estate Planning Documents


The importance of proactive estate planning cannot be overstated. By establishing guardianship and incorporating it into estate planning documents, individuals can ensure the well-being of their loved ones and protect their assets.

Considering the various aspects of guardianship, from selecting a guardian to understanding the legal processes involved, is essential for creating a comprehensive estate plan that addresses the unique needs of each individual and their family.

Guardianship FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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