When a person can no longer manage property or provide self-care, a guardianship may be appropriate,” explains the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook. On the other hand, the Indiana Bar Foundation authors caution, “Sometimes guardianships are unnecessarily imposed on persons who are capable of making their own decisions.”

What, exactly does the term “guardian” mean? A guardian is someone appointed by a court to make decisions for an incapacitated person.  In Indiana, conservator and guardian mean the same thing.
Who can serve as guardian or conservator?

  • Any capable adult
  • A county Division of Family and Children
  • A private charity
  • A corporation

What makes a person “incapacitated”? They are incapable of providing self care, of managing their property, or both, due to:

  • Infirmity
  • Insanity
  • Mental illness
  • Alcoholism
  • Excessive drug use

“Old age is never a basis upon which guardianship can be granted,” the authors stress.
And what is more, a person who has one or more of the problems listed above is not necessarily incapacitated, because, even people with one of those conditions might be capable of providing self care and managing their own affairs..

Any interested person may file a petition for the appointment of a guardian of an incapacitated person, but the filer will not necessarily be the person who will be appointed guardian. Notice that a petition has been filed must go to:

  • The person alleged to be incapacitated
  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Adult children
  • At least one person closely related by blood or marriage (of there are no living parents, spouse, or adult children)

“The court should always look to the least restrictive alternative available to protect the interests of the incapacitated person,” creating limited guardianship wherever appropriate to encourage the self-improvement, self-reliance and independence of the protected person, the Handbook authors caution.

– by Rebecca W. Geyer