When a person is unable to handle his or her own finances or medical decisions a guardian is appointed by the probate court.  A guardian may be responsible for making medical decisions, financial decisions or both, for an individual who is incapable of making these decisions.  There are two basic types of guardianship:

Guardians for Disabled Adults

Guardianship for Children

A guardian who is responsible for the financial decisions and the healthcare decisions is referred to as a general guardian and a person who has limited power to make decisions (such as only financial decisions) for a person is called a special guardian.  A guardian ad litum, who is usually a lawyer, may be appointed by the probate court to represent a legally disabled person or a minor in litigation.   A guardian at litum may also be appointed to represent unknown or unnotified heirs of an estate.

Guardianship for adults and children can be simplified or eliminated through the use of a living trust, a power of attorney for health care and a power of attorney for property.