A guardian is a person who is granted the legal right to make personal decisions on behalf of someone, known as a ward, who cannot effectively make them on his own. In Minnesota, guardians may not make most types of financial decisions on behalf of a ward -- for that, a conservator must be appointed. A state courts must appoint a guardian, whose rights and responsibilities are governed by state law. Minnesota's guardianship law is found in Article 5 of the Minnesota Uniform Probate Code.
Types of Wards
Minnesota recognizes two types of possible wards: minors under the age of 18, and disabled adults. A minor cannot become a ward unless his parents are dead, unavailable or legally unfit, and no suitable alternatives to guardianship exist. Minors who have been legally declared emancipated -- due to marriage, for example -- cannot become wards unless they are declared disabled. An adult can become a ward if he suffers from a disability that prevents him from effectively making day-to-day decisions regarding his own personal care, and prevents him from meeting basic needs such as the provision of food, shelter and clothing.
Appointment of a Guardian
The guardianship process commences when an individual who intends to become a guardian files a petition with the Minnesota probate court that has jurisdiction over the residence of the proposed ward. The court then schedules a hearing to determine if the preconditions to guardianship exist -- whether a minor's parents are available, for example, or whether an adult is disabled. The court will also oversee a background investigation to determine whether the proposed guardian is qualified to perform his duties. The operative legal standard for selecting a guardian is the best interests of the ward.
If the proposed guardian is an individual, he must be at least 18 years old. The probate court is entitled to conduct an intrusive investigation of the proposed guardian's personal character including, but not limited to, the presence or absence of a criminal record and the existence of any questionable personal habits such as substance abuse. If the proposed ward is an adult, the court will inquire as to whether any substantiated claims of abuse against vulnerable adults are recorded against the proposed guardian. No background check is required if the guardianship is sought by someone who has already raised the ward in the family home and the proposed ward is disabled due to mental retardation or a related condition.
Guardian Rights and Duties
A guardian may be granted the right to determine where the ward will live, to consent to medical treatment on his behalf and to supervise his daily activities. If no conservator has been appointed, the guardian may to prevent the ward from entering into any contract except for basic needs, and may apply for public assistance on his behalf. The court may tailor the guardian's powers to the needs of the ward by restricting the guardian from making some of these decisions on behalf of the ward. A guardian is responsible for providing the guardian with food, shelter and clothing, and is required to meet his medical, social and psychological needs. A guardian must also care for the ward's personal property.