Learn about the responsibilities of a guardian of an incapacitated person

Find out about the 2 different types of guardianships.

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 sought if an individual is incapable 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.

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 liable for the incapacitated person's expenses

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