What rights might be impacted by a guardianship?

A guardianship sometimes occurs when a person is no longer physically or mentally capable of making sound decisions about personal or business finances, property or legal matters. A guardianship can be an effective vehicle by which a person and one’s property is protected, particularly when care and compassion are part of the process. However, there are legal ramifications to guardianships, including an impact to the person’s rights.

Generally, courts can appoint guardians in various capacities, so all the rights of a person are not impacted. In some cases, a person may still be able to make his or her own decisions regarding certain matters — for example, one may have the legal capacity to decide for oneself on medical matters or vote, but not have day-to-day functionality to handle the complex details related to financial matters.

Some rights that could be impacted by a guardianship include the ability to determine where you live, consent to or deny certain medical treatment, drive with a valid driver’s license, make decisions about end-of-life care or own a firearm. Other rights that may be lost include the ability to sign contracts or file lawsuits, enter into marriage or sell or buy property.

When guardianship is established, the person taking guardianship may be able to do many of these things on your behalf. This makes it essential for you to consider carefully who you might have as your guardian — in some cases, you can note guardianship preferences in estate documents. In other cases, family members and friends seeking to place someone in a guardianship situation should carefully consider who they appoint to best protect their loved one.

Source: National Guardianship Association, “What is Guardianship?” accessed Feb. 27, 2015