Learn about the responsibilities of a guardian of an incapacitated person

Learn about the 2 different types of guardianships for incapacitated adults and find out what a guardian can and can’t do.

Table of Contents

Types of guardianships

There are 2 basic types of guardianships. The court will determine which type of guardianship is appropriate based on medical information and other information that's available.

  • Plenary (or complete) guardianship — Can be put in place if an individual isn’t capable of making any decisions for themself.
  • Limited guardianship — Only addresses specific areas where the incapacitated person needs help. This type of guardianship allows the court to appoint someone to help with an individual’s unique circumstances. Limits could include having the individual keep the right to vote or the right to decide where to live. An example of this is when someone can't make or communicate medical treatment decisions.

Responsibilities of guardians

Once you're approved as a guardian for an incapacitated person, you're responsible for:

  • Acting in the best interest of the incapacitated person, taking into consideration their desires and personal values 
  • Filing the initial Guardian's Care Plan/Report (MPC 821) within 60 days of your appointment as permanent guardian
  • Filing an annual Guardian's Care Plan/Report (MPC 821) every year on the anniversary of your appointment as guardian
  • Informing the court if your address changes or if the incapacitated person's address changes
  • Notifying the court if the incapacitated person dies by filing a copy of the death certificate or suggestion of death
  • Petitioning the court to end the guardianship if it's determined that the incapacitated person isn't incapacitated anymore by filing Petition for Termination of a Guardian/Conservator (MPC 203) and a medical certificate
  • Filing Petition to Expand/Modify/Limit the Powers of a Guardian (MPC 220) to expand your authority if the incapacitated person needs more treatment and services than were originally authorized by the guardianship decree

Additional Resources

What guardians can't do

When a guardianship is in place, it removes some or all decision-making ability from the incapacitated person. The guardian may become the representative payee and collect the incapacitated person's benefits from the Social Security Administration. However, a guardian:

  • Can't revoke a Health Care Proxy
  • Can't spend or distribute the incapacitated person's assets or income
  • Isn't personally responsible for the incapacitated person's expenses

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