Understanding Guardianship in Minnesota

Put simply, guardianship is a legal device whereby an adult who is capable of handling their own affairs is put in charge of handling the affairs of someone who cannot take care of themselves. The most common form of guardianship involves parents who are the guardians of their minor children—they make decisions regarding the child’s well-being, education, health care, and, in some cases, their finances.

The lesser-known but equally important guardianships are where an adult—the ward—is incapable of taking care of themselves or their finances either due to mental or physical incapacity. In this situation, a court can appoint a responsible adult as the guardian of the person who will handle the incapacitated person’s health care, finances, and major decisions.

Individuals can become incapacitated in a variety of ways such as traumatic accidents, mental illness, or debilitating physical illnesses. Other individuals may be incapacitated as children due to catastrophic physical or mental illnesses or accidents—and, even though they have turned 18, are still considered incapacitated and incapable of handling their own affairs.

Guardian Responsibilities and Duties

Guardians are given an immense fiduciary responsibility with respect to their ward. A guardian is responsible for ensuring that their ward receives appropriate medical care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, and is safe from harm from the world and from themselves. The guardian must manage the ward’s finances to ensure that there is enough to cover the costs of the ward’s care. Above all, the guardian must make all decisions regarding the care of the ward with the ward’s best interest in mind.

Whereas parents are almost always automatically considered guardians of their minor children, it is much more involved to have a guardian appointed for an individual who is an adult. Anyone can file a petition to become a guardian of a particular ward. The court will then appoint an independent attorney to represent the ward. There will be a hearing before which notice is sent to the ward, along with the ward’s family (including their parents, siblings, adult children, spouse, proxies), and many others who are tangentially interested in the care and protection of the ward.

After Being Appointed a Guardian

If a guardian is appointed as a result of the hearing, the guardian will be issued letters of guardianship by the court which they will need to present to the various institutions involved in the care or maintenance of the ward, such as banks, health care providers, and other legal entities. Once the guardian has the legal responsibility for the ward, they are awarded custody of the ward. They are then allowed to make necessary filings on their ward’s behalf including filing for government assistance and the power to give consent for medical treatment.

The court who appointed the guardian retains jurisdiction and supervision over the guardian and will require them to file annual updates with the court regarding the current situation of the ward along with any changes that have occurred during the prior year, including whether guardianship is still required.

Guardians can charge a fee for their services. There are also professional guardians who provide guardianship services for a price. Similarly, family members and others can serve as informal guardians without going through the full process of an appointment—these appointments can be made through powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, and similar instruments.   

If you have questions about guardianship in Minnesota, your first call should be to Jane Larson Associates. She can answer your questions and guide you through the process. Contact the firm today to get started.

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Jane J. Larson Associates

Jane J. Larson Associates provides personalized legal services for clients in Roseville, Ramsey, Hennepin, Washington, and Anoka. We’ve been providing essential legal services since 1988 and are ready to put our decades of experience to work on your case. We take stress out of the legal process, and are ready to help you today.

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