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FAQ: Probate & Estate Administration

Things to Think About: Choosing a Guardian

Guardianships and conservatorships are established for people who need representatives to oversee their personal affairs or finances. A person incapacitated by age or health problems may come under the care of a legal guardian or conservator. Conservators frequently are appointed to handle the financial affairs of the incapacitated, while guardians usually look after the personal affairs of the incapacitated person or child. Sometimes, these roles can be executed by the same person, while other times, they are imbued in different people. Some states also have rules against family members becoming conservators to lessen the strain on family relationships. Guardianships and conservatorships are most often established or approved by court order when an adult becomes unable to deal with his or her personal affairs, but in some instances, an individual may pre-select a guardian to look after them in the event of incapacity.

If you have a role in selecting or approving a guardian, you should give serious thought to the following ten questions.

  1. Does the candidate have a reputation for honesty, integrity, and timeliness?

  2. Has the candidate ever been convicted of a crime?

  3. Has the potential guardian managed his or her personal matters in a responsible manner?

  4. Does the candidate have educational, professional, or business experience that lends itself to the performance of the duties of a guardian or conservator?

  5. Does the candidate have the time to devote to the required duties?

  6. Is the potential guardian in good health?

  7. Does he or she have a history of substance abuse?

  8. Is the candidate likely to engender the respect, support, and cooperation of all persons affected by his or her decisions?

  9. If the ward is incapacitated, did the ward previously express his or her wishes as to whom to appoint as guardian?

  10. Although not required, is the potential guardian related by blood or marriage to the ward, or does he or she know the ward well enough to carry out that person's probable intentions?

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