Guardianship Basics

Guardianship Basics

A summary of what you need to know about guardianship


Guardianship is a legal arrangement where a court gives a person the legal right to make decisions for another person who is unable to make decisions for themselves; such as a child, an incapacitated adult or someone who is developmentally disabled.

In New York State, a guardianship case is handled by the Family Court, Supreme Court or Surrogate's Court depending on the type of guardianship asked for and the person over whom guardianship is requested.

A guardian can have guardianship over different aspects of a ward's life:

  • Guardian of the person. A guardian of the person can make life decisions for the ward like health care, education and welfare decisions.
  • Guardian of the property. A guardian of the property handles decisions about the ward's money, investments and savings as directed by a Judge. A guardian of the property must file an annual report about the property.
  • Guardian of the person and property. This kind of guardian has responsibility of both the ward's life decision and the ward's property.
  • Guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is assigned by a Judge to act for a person during a court case when they cannot defend their rights or protect their own interests.