What are Guardianship Services?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Guardianship services are offered to individuals who are legally incapacitated and those who can no longer make their own decisions about daily living and finances. These services may be offered by for-profit or non-profit agencies as well as small business owners and individuals. Some agencies also hire case managers to work as guardians for clients. The duties and responsibilities of guardians include obtaining benefits, finding and approving medical assistance and assisting with financial management. The courts often determine guardianship, but some individuals determine ahead of time who they would like to act as their guardian by filing one or more legal documents.

A guardianship service is considered a comprehensive solution for helping individuals govern their personal affairs. There are more specific guardianship alternatives that address more limited needs. For example, someone may need the assistance of another individual for decision making related to health issues, but not much else. In that case, a health surrogate might be the appropriate provider of guardianship services. A power of attorney may also be an adequate solution in some cases, which the individual can choose long before becoming functionally incapacitated by drafting a durable power of attorney document.

If a relative, friend or loved one feels that an adult is in need of guardianship services, they often have to initiate a proceeding with a probate court. Many jurisdictions refer to the court process as a guardianship proceeding. The court may appoint an attorney to make a formal assessment of the adult’s mental and developmental capacities. If it’s determined that the adult can no longer make her own personal and financial decisions, then the court will first determine whether a family member can take on the responsibilities of caring for the adult. If no family member is willing or qualified to help, then the court may appoint an organization that offers guardianship services.

Many organizations that offer guardianship services also become the representative payee for government benefits or other income that the adult receives. For example, in the United States the Social Security Administration pays checks to the organization and not directly to the adult once the organization takes on the role of guardian. Decisions on how the money is spent and when is within the discretion of the organization since the adult was adjudicated mentally incapacitated. Any daily or long-term financial decision making is also within the sole discretion of the organization..

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