Guardianships can play an important role in the lives of North Carolina families. When a guardianship is set up, an individual or agency is appointed by the court to make decisions on behalf of a person who does not have adequate capacity to make decisions for themselves. This vulnerable person is known as the ward.
Once appointed by the court, the guardian may have the legal right to make decisions about the ward’s medical care and financial affairs. The extent of the guardianship is determined by the court. For instance, if the ward is totally incapacitated, the court may give the guardian wide-sweeping authority. If the ward is only partially incapacitated, the court may order a more limited guardianship.
The guardian’s role is an important one. A guardian has a decision-making role and an advocacy role for the ward. The guardian should allow the ward to participate in the decisions that impact them to the extent their comprehension and judgment allows. The guardian should also protect and safeguard the rights of the ward to make their own decisions.
Courts periodically review guardianships to make sure the guardian is living up to their responsibility, and that the guardianship is still in the best interests of the ward.
Families can start the process of crafting a guardianship once the need for one becomes apparent, but some families choose to prepare for the process as part of their estate plan . In general, there are a variety of different tools in the estate planning toolbox to help families and estate planners address incapacity or special needs concerns or to appoint a guardian for a minor child.