Skip to main content

Common Questions About Guardianship Answered

4 min read

Legal Boulevard Square Logo

By Larissa Holt

Guardianship grants one person authority to make decisions for another. Gain a basic understanding of guardianship through answers to these common questions.

What Is a Guardian?

A guardian is a person who has been granted the authority to make legal decisions on behalf of another person, known as a ward, who is incapable of making such decisions on their own. A ward may be a minor, an elderly person, a developmentally disabled individual or a person who is mentally or physically incapacitated.

What Criteria Should a Legal Guardian Meet?

A person must meet several important criteria to become a legal guardian:

Different Types of Guardianships

The definitions, requirements and responsibilities of legal guardianships vary by state. They may include the following types of appointments.

Testamentary Guardianship

Typically created through a will, a testamentary guardianship occurs when parents designate a guardian to care for their minor child or a disabled adult child in the event of their passing.

Temporary Guardianship

Temporary guardianship is granted for a specific purpose or for a designated time period. It’s terminated once the purpose is accomplished or the time period expires.

Limited Guardianship

Limited guardianship, which is also known as limited conservatorship, restricts the types of legal decisions a guardian may make for the ward. It’s typically put in place for the care of developmentally disabled adults, and may include healthcare- or property-related decisions.

Emergency Guardianship

Emergency guardianship is a form of temporary guardianship that’s granted when immediate approval is needed for emergency services such as medical care. It is typically only ordered when an individual is incapacitated and is at risk of serious harm or death. Some states limit the amount of time an emergency guardianship can remain in place.

Joint Guardianship

Joint guardianship grants authority to multiple individuals to share in decision-making for the ward.


Nathan Anderson/Unsplash

How Is Guardianship Established?

There are two ways to establish guardianship.

Requesting Guardianship

Parties that wish to request guardianship must file a petition stating their interest in obtaining guardianship. The court then conducts interviews with relevant parties, including the petitioner, and in cases involving minors, the child’s parents and occasionally the child themselves are also interviewed.

Before making a determination, the court may also order a home inspection and a criminal background check of the petitioner. Once a judge approves the petition, a court order authorizing guardianship is issued.

Appointing Guardianship

Parents may choose to appoint a legal guardian to care for their children in the event of their death or incapacity. Guardianship is typically established through a will, which may designate both a guardian and an alternate, who would fulfill the role if the original designee cannot.

Parents looking to appoint a legal guardian for their children may want to consider a variety of factors when deciding on the most suitable candidate:

When Is a Guardian Removed?

When a guardian is removed depends on the type of guardianship appointed. In cases of emergency guardianship, a guardian may be appointed for as few as 72 hours. For temporary or limited guardianship, the court order may specify a time period or purpose related to the need for the guardian. Once the need has been fulfilled, the guardian’s responsibilities are removed.

Guardians may also be removed by the court for failing to perform their duties or for a breach of fiduciary responsibility. Concerned parties with compelling reasons may petition the court to request removal and/or replacement of a guardian. If a guardian is no longer needed, a request may also be made.

In the event that guardianship is contested, the court typically appoints a disinterested third party known as a guardian ad litem to investigate the necessity of guardianship and the suitability of the guardian.

Jordan Whitt/Unsplash

Can a Court Appoint a Guardian?

Yes. There are several circumstances that may lead to a court-appointed guardian.

In these situations, a court may appoint a guardian who will be responsible for the best interests of the ward. In some states, a child that has reached the age of 14 can register a preference of guardian with the courts. The appointed guardian may be an adult sibling, a spouse, the noncustodial parent or another relative or responsible adult.

What Does a Judge Consider When Appointing a Guardian?

Although criteria may vary from state to state, judges typically consider several important factors when appointing a guardian, particularly when the ward is a minor.

Proof of incapacity is also required when guardianship is being requested for an incapacitated adult.

Alvaro Reyes/Unsplash

Do I Need A Lawyer If I Want to Appoint a Guardian?

Guardianship can be a complicated matter and the required paperwork can be confusing. Depending on the type of guardianship being sought, a petitioner may need to fill out numerous forms, serve documents to relevant parties, compile documentation and appear at hearings. Although legal assistance is not required to complete the process, a family law attorney can help ensure the best outcome possible for all parties.

Where Can I Find Printable Guardianship Forms?

Guardianship documents may vary by state, and many courts offer free, printable, state-specific guardianship forms and other resources online. Additional forms, including those required to terminate guardianship, may be found online at the Family Law Self-Help Center.

Legal Boulevard Square Logo



How to Prepare for the Immigration Process Immigration

How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

The immigration process can be difficult to navigate. Learn what steps to take when preparing for your personal interview, naturalization test and medical exam. For many applicants, the immigration process is overwhelming and difficult to navigate. By taking the following steps to prepare, you can improve your chances of successfully achieving U.S. citizenship…

Read More about How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

5 min read

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card Immigration

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

Determining eligibility for a green card can be complex. Discover eligible categories and which one might be the best fit for individuals or their families. For many people, obtaining a green card is an important milestone. It could be their first step on the road to working in the United States, joining a spouse or […]

Read More about How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

5 min read

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ General

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

Class action lawsuits let individuals join together to fight back against harm caused by corporations. Discover how class action lawsuits may pertain to you. Every day, deceptive business practices and outright on the part of corporations and other institutions cause physical and financial harm to individuals. Class action lawsuits give consumers the ability to fight back. Learn more […]

Read More about Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

5 min read

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect Immigration

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

Explore the application process for U.S immigration. Learn about visa categories, eligibility requirements and information on visa approvals during COVID-19. Every year the U.S. Department of State issues immigration visas to family members, skilled workers and diversity immigrants. In 2019, the U.S. issued more than 450,000 immigrant visas to applicants across seven categories. There are different immigrant visas in […]

Read More about U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

4 min read