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 decide which type of guardianship is a good fit based on medical information and any other information that may be provided.

  • Plenary (or complete) guardianship — A plenary guardianship can be put in place if an individual isn’t able to make any decisions for themself.
  • Limited guardianship — A limited guardianship only applies to specific areas where the incapacitated person needs help. This type of guardianship lets the court 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.

Guardian responsibilities

Once you're approved as a guardian for an incapacitated person, these are your responsibilities:

  • To act in the best interest of the incapacitated person and to take their desires and personal values into consideration. 
  • To tell the court if your address or the incapacitated person's address changes. You  should write a signed letter that states your changed address and give it to the court either in person or by mail. 
  • To tell the court if the incapacitated person dies by filing a copy of the death certificate or suggestion of death.

Additional Resources

Guardianship forms

As a guardian, you may also need to file these forms.

What guardians can't do

When a guardianship is in place, it removes some or all of the incapacitated person’s decision-making abilities. As a guardian, you may become the “representative payee,” a person who can collect the incapacitated person's benefits from the Social Security Administration. However, a guardian:

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

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