Guardianship is the process by which one individual (a legal guardian) is appointed by a court to care for the personal and property interests of another individual (a ward) in situations where the latter is unable to function independently. Guardians are appointed to represent children, developmentally disabled and mentally ill adults, and the elderly who have been deemed legally incompetent and to make decisions on their behalf. The appointment of a guardian represents a critical point in a ward's life as it essentially rescinds that person's right to make independent decisions.

Judges often rely on input from psychologists or other mental health professionals to help them determine whether guardianship is appropriate. Ideally, family members or close friends are appointed as guardians, keeping the ward's best ...

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