A guardian can only do what the court gave the guardian power to do. The court should give the guardian only those powers which the person under guardianship cannot handle him or herself.
The guardian should work to maximize the independence of the person under guardianship. A person with a guardian must be treated with dignity and respect. He or she still has control over all aspects of life not specifically delegated to the guardian by the court. A person under guardianship has the right to take part in all decisions made by the guardian.
The guardian only has those powers that the judge specifically lists. Some examples of powers that a court can give a guardian are:
- general supervision of finances
- making sure bills are paid
- general supervision, including deciding where the person with a guardian lives
- Note: The guardian needs go back and ask for court permission before approving a move to a nursing home, group home or similar setting.
- approving contracts
- buying and selling property
- medical decisions
- Note: The guardian needs to go back and ask for court permission if the person under guardianship objects to a specific medical decision.
- legal decisions, including suing and defending lawsuits on behalf of the person with a guardian
- Note: The person with a guardian always has the right to his or her own lawyer, even if the guardian objects.
Reporting to the Court
The guardian has to report to the court at least once a year. The guardian must file an annual accounting with the court showing how the guardian spent money during the year. The judge reads the accounting and must approve it.
The guardian must also file a report every year that tells the judge how the person under guardianship is doing. It must also explain how the guardian carried out his or her duties as guardian. The report must also include the guardian’s opinion as to whether a guardian is still necessary.
Getting the Judge’s Permission Before Taking an Action
The guardian must get the judge’s permission before:
- selling real estate belonging to the person under guardianship, or
- moving the person under guardianship to a nursing home, group home, or similar facility, or
- consenting to non-emergency surgery, or
- consenting to a do-not-resuscitate order, or
- withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, except in an emergency
If the person under guardianship disagrees with a decision of the guardian, he or she always has the right to ask the judge to change or prevent the decision.