What is guardianship?
Guardianship is a legal arrangement through which a person (the guardian) is legally authorized to make decisions for another person (the ward).
When is guardianship necessary?
Sometimes people become incapable of making minimally adequate decisions about medical treatment, everyday life or other important matters, and as a result their health and safety are in jeopardy. Under Utah law, a court may appoint a guardian to make decisions for a person when this happens and there are no voluntary arrangements through which the person can be assisted in making adequate decisions.
A person may become “incapacitated” because of:
- A severe developmental disability
- An acute, serious mental illness
- Alzheimer’s disease and similar problems that can occur with old age
- A serious illness or accident
- Alcoholism or drug abuse
However, it is important to understand that many people who experience these problems are quite capable of making their own decisions and do not need a guardian.
Is there more than one kind of guardianship?
In appointing a guardian, the court may grant either a “limited guardianship” or “full guardianship”. Utah law requires the court to grant a limited guardianship unless a full guardianship is necessary. A limited guardianship authorizes the guardian to make only certain decisions. In some cases, however, the court may find that a full guardianship is necessary, and the court may authorize the guardian to make almost all decisions for the ward. Generally, a guardian makes decisions about the ward’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, medical care and shelter.
In addition to guardianship, Utah law provides for appointment of a “conservator” if a person is incapable of making important financial decisions. An incapacitated person who is subject to conservatorship is referred to as a “protected person”.
The court may place an incapacitated person under a guardianship or a conservatorship or both, depending on the kind of decisions the person is incapable of making.