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Children's Law


A guardianship is an order given by the court to a person (called the guardian) giving that person legal power and the duty to care for another person (called the ward). The guardianship may give the guardian control over the ward's property, physical person, or both. Once a year, a guardian is required to make a report to court about the ward called an annual report. If the guardian is also guardian of the estate they must also file an annual accounting.  


To get a guardianship, the ward must be incapacitated. This means the ward has a disability, such as a severe mental illness or intellectual disability, or has another condition that makes them unable to manage their health, safety, or financial matters. You can also get a guardianship if the ward is a minor child who is not emancipated. 

Family members often request a guardianship, but a guardianship can be requested by any interested adult.

A guardian can be any person who is all of the following:

  • a resident of the state
  • aged 18 years or older
  • of sound mind
  • not a convicted or unpardoned felon, unless certified court records are provided for the judge's review

The Department of Human Services, a corporation, or a bank can also be appointed as a guardian.


A guardian is not free to do what they want with the ward or the ward's property. A guardian is responsible for taking care of the ward and the ward's property. A guardian must file a petition with the court and get written permission before making some decisions, like withholding life-saving medical treatments, terminating parental rights, and prohibiting the ward from obtaining a driver's license.

The ward or the ward’s estate may sue a guardian who does not take care of the ward or the ward’s property properly.

Getting a Guardian: Three Steps


The petition is filed in the circuit court of the county where the ward lives. The ward's parents must be served with the petition, and a notice of the hearing.


At the hearing, the ward has a right to have an attorney to present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses.

If the judge decides if the parents are unfit and if awarding guardianship is in the best interest of the child. 

The judge will issue an order to the guardian. This order will explain exactly what the guardian can and cannot do with the ward and the ward's property. The court clerk will then give the "letters of guardianship" to the guardian. These letters are what the guardian gives to other people so that the guardian can take care of the ward and the ward's business.

Ending a Guardianship

A guardianship can end for many reasons, including:

  • the ward dying, or 
  • the judge finding the parents are fit, if they were found unfit after a hearing, and 
  • the judge finding the guardianship is no longer in the ward’s best interest

Other Options

Guardianships are expensive and require a lot of work. Guardianships also mean that the ward loses the ability to care for themselves. There are other ways to help a person take care of themselves or their needs without getting a guardianship. This includes:

Power of Attorney for Minor

A power of attorney is a document that a person (called a principal) can give to someone they trust (called an agent). The power of attorney allows the agent to make decisions about the principal's children's needs, including their medical care and education. 

The advantages of a power of attorney over a guardianship are:
  • the parent has control over who is given the power of attorney
  • the parent may end the power of attorney at any time
  • you do not have to go to court to get a power of attorney
  • no court supervision is required
  • it is inexpensive