What rights do proposed wards have?
Under Utah law, every person who faces the possibility of guardianship has certain rights. The law presumes that all adults are capable of making their own decisions, unless and until a court finds otherwise. In addition, proposed wards have certain “due process” rights, including the right to:
- Receive notice of the hearing in a language the person understands
- Be represented by an attorney
- Attend the hearing or trial and see and hear the evidence that is presented
- Present evidence in opposition to the petition for the guardianship
- Cross-examine witnesses
- A jury trial
These rights are crucial because they serve as part of a system of checks and balances on guardianship. It is important to remember that even though guardianship may be necessary and very helpful, guardianship limits the self-determination of the person placed under it. There are few legal processes more restrictive of citizens in a free society than guardianship.
What rights do wards have?
Persons placed under guardianship continue to have rights. Wards under limited guardianship retain all rights except those rights the court has specifically granted their guardian. And regardless of the type of guardianship, all wards retain certain rights. For example, all wards have the right to make personal choices where those choices pose no risk of harm to the ward or others, including the right to:
- Dress and groom themselves as they wish
- Choose what they eat
- Keep a personal routine
- Choose their friends and associates
- Keep and use personal possessions
- Private time and space
- Be intimate with others of their choosing
- Know why decisions about them are made and appeal those decisions they disagree with.
In addition, wards have the right to:
- Ask the court to end a guardianship, appoint a different guardian or modify a guardianship
- Not be sterilized
Guardians have a special responsibility for the rights of wards. This responsibility includes protecting wards’ rights and supporting wards in exercising their rights and privileges. Rights and privileges mean nothing unless they can be exercised. Wards should be involved in the decision making process whenever possible. Without such opportunities and experience, wards will not be able to develop or re-develop the ability to manage their affairs independently.