Temporary Guardianship Rights in South Carolina

By Valerie Stevens

A temporary guardianship is created only in an emergency situation in South Carolina when an incapacitated person needs urgent assistance, such as immediate medical attention. The probate court appoints a temporary guardian to supervise the person's care in the same way that a parent would. The temporary guardian has the same decision-making rights and obligations that a permanent guardian has, but for a limited time. A temporary guardianship is not the same as a temporary custody decision, which is granted by the family court in South Carolina.


A guardian is appointed to manage the affairs of an incapacitated person who cannot fend for himself in South Carolina. A parent or spouse of the incapacitated person can nominate someone and ask the court to create a guardianship or the probate court can appoint someone. An incapacitated person, according to South Carolina law, means someone who lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make responsible decisions for himself, such as a person with a mental illness, physical impairment or disability, who is elderly or impaired by chronic drug use. This person can be an adult or a minor.


The South Carolina Probate Court can create a temporary guardianship without a petition or notice in emergency circumstances. When the incapacitated person is in need of immediate intervention or medical attention and there is no one else who can act on his behalf, the court will consider appointment of a temporary guardian. If there is an acting guardian who cannot be located or who is not doing her job, the court can appoint a temporary guardian for a period of up to six months. A separate court case must be filed to appoint a permanent guardian, although it can be the same person who filled the temporary guardianship.

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A temporary guardian has the same rights to act on behalf of the incapacitated person as a regular guardian. A guardian's rights are basically the same as a parent's powers over a minor child, except that guardians are not liable for the actions of the incapacitated persons. Temporary guardians are charged with making sure the person has proper care and appropriate housing. They have the right to arrange schooling or training. They are charged with taking care of the person's property and can initiate an action for protection of property, if necessary. Temporary guardians have the right to sign consent forms for the incapacitated person to receive medical attention or other professional services.


If a conservator has not been appointed to handle the incapacitated person's financial dealings, a temporary guardian has the right to act as a fiduciary. In these circumstances the temporary guardian has the right to receive money and property on behalf of the incapacitated person and use the money for the person's benefit. A temporary guardian has the right to start legal proceedings to force someone with a duty to support the incapacitated person to make payments for that purpose.

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