Guardians are appointed by the court to help individuals who need assistance making personal decisions, which might include where to live or what medical treatment is necessary. A general (or full) guardianship gives the guardian the authority to make all personal care decisions on behalf of the ward, except those that require prior court approval. A limited guardianship allows the guardian specific powers that are set out in a court order; in all other personal care situations, the ward can make his/her own decisions.

Once appointed, a guardian is responsible for considering the ward’s wishes and handling the ward’s urgent needs first (e.g., living situation, meals, personal effects, health care decisions not covered by a durable Health Care Power of Attorney document). The guardian should then consider other needs (e.g., education,

health care management

recreation, counseling, other services, visitation). Personal care decisions that require a court order include:


  • Changing the ward’s permanent residence, if the proposed residence is more restrictive than the current residence.

  • Arranging for the provision of major elective surgery or any non-emergency major medical procedure, including sterilization.

  • Consenting to or withholding of life-sustaining procedures.

  • Denying communication, visitation or interaction with someone who seeks to communicate, visit or interact with the ward. 

The guardian is an officer of the court and must file an initial report to the district court in the county where the Guardianship is established within 60 days of the date of appointment. The guardian must also file an annual report within 90 days of the close of the reporting period (the anniversary of the date of appointment), as well as any supplemental reports, as required. Upon court approval, a Guardianship may terminate if the guardian is removed or resigns, or when the ward reaches the age of majority, is determined to no longer need a guardian or dies.