A guardian is someone who is appointed by a court or named in a will, to make decisions for someone else when that person – usually either a child or an incapacitated adult – cannot do the same for him or herself. The relevant types of decisions include: giving consent to medical care or treatment; purchasing or arranging for purchase of such necessities as food, clothing, household and other personal items; arranging for education; and managing finances, bank accounts and payment of bills.

A guardianship requires that someone act on behalf of and protect a child or incapacitated adult until that child or adult are capable of caring for him or herself. When asking for the court to appoint a guardian in a particular situation, the court must be sure that the individual is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for him or herself. A child is considered incapacitated due to the fact that he or she has not yet reached the age of 18. Incapacity in an adult can result from reasons such as a mental or physical disability, disease, or drug or alcohol addiction.

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