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Guardianship refers to the legal role given to an individual to manage the personal activities (guardian of the person) or resources of another person (guardian of the estate) who cannot properly do so on their own. Guardianship often is used to give responsibilities of managing a child’s welfare to an individual besides their parents in situations where a proper parent is not available. Some adults may end up under a guardianship (also called conservatorship for adults) when a court determines they have a disability that prevents them from exercising judgment or if the person becomes overly reckless or harmful to their welfare. For more information on conservatorship, click here

Given that guardianship transfers legal responsibilities from one person to another, state laws regulate when and how they are used and vary greatly. Generally, the guardian owes a duty to act in the best interests of their ward, and a court can remove a guardian for acting negligently or in their own self interest. Specific laws govern guardianship in the contexts of children, determining when a court can and to what extent transfer the authority of a parent to another person. 

[Last updated in January of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]