Adult Guardianship Basics

A guardianship is a legal process in which a court determines that an individual is no longer able to make sound decisions concerning his or her person or property because of a mental illness or disability, and appoints someone else to act for and in place of that individual.  The individual in need of care is called the ward and the person given the power and responsibility to care for the ward is called the guardian.


There are several types of guardianships in Ohio to meet the varying needs of wards while preserving as much of their freedoms as possible:

  • Guardianship of the Estate:  Under this type of guardianship, the guardian manages the finances of the ward. This includes paying the legitimate debts and expenses of the ward, and collecting and depositing all funds of the ward in a bank account established by the guardian for the ward’s benefit.  The guardian must provide the court with an accounting of all financial transactions he or she has performed on behalf of the ward every two years.
  • Guardianship of the Person: Gives the guardian the power to make decisions concerning the ward’s day-to-day life such as arrangement for housing and medical care, but excludes the power to control the ward’s finances.  Essentially, the guardian’s duty under this type of guardianship is to protect and control the ward so that the ward does not harm him or herself or others.
  • Guardian of both the Person and the Estate (plenary guardianship): This type of guardianship gives the guardian the authority to make decisions concerning both the ward’s finances and day-to-day well-being.  This guardianship is the most comprehensive because the guardian has the authority to make nearly all decisions for the ward, whether of the person or the estate.
  • Emergency Guardianship: The guardian serves to protect the ward from immediate danger to the ward’s person or property.  Given the potential danger that the ward may be in, a court may appoint an emergency guardian without notice to the ward and his or her next of kin.  The guardian serves for a limited time.
  • Limited Guardianship: Under this guardianship, the guardian’s powers are limited to meet the specific needs of the ward; the ward retains any rights not given to the guardian.  For example, a guardian could have the limited power to make medical decisions on behalf of the ward.

There are certain qualifications that must be met for someone to be appointed as the guardian.  If the person applying meets these qualifications, there is a court proceeding for the appointment of the guardian.  If the court grants the guardianship, the guardian has certain ongoing powers and duties.  Please follow the links for more information in these areas.


There are alternatives to guardianships for adults. For some adults who are having difficulty because of physical or mental impairment, a Power of Attorney may be sufficient, provided one was created while the person was sufficiently competent to make one.  For others, a conservatorship may be an appropriate alternative.

If you think someone you know is in need of a guardianship, or may be able to use one of the alternatives, or if you just want more information concerning the guardianship process, please feel free to contact us.

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