A guardian is someone who is legally appointed by a court to oversee the affairs of another person. Many reasons could lead to the appointment of a guardian. Some of those reasons include the youth of the protected person or disabilities arising from things like mental illness, old age or ill health. In Indiana, the statutes found at Section 29-3-1 of the Indiana Code govern guardianship proceedings.
Guardianship of the Person
Guardianship can either be over a person, estate or person and estate. A close relative of the incapacitated person could also apply to a court to be appointed as a guardian over the person and estate. Apart from minors, the children of elderly parents could apply to a court to be appointed as the parents' guardians when advancing age affects their physical and mental health to the point that they are no longer able to make competent decisions about themselves and their estate.
Guardianship over the Estate
Under Indiana law, a person could petition a court to be appointed as a guardian over the estate of an incapacitated person. The courts take this type of petition very seriously, and the petitioner must prove several things. He must show the reason why he wants to be a guardian, the type of relationship he has with the alleged incompetent person and examples of situations where the person's incompetence had led the person to make unreasonable decisions that had clear adverse effects.
Responsibilities of the Guardian
The Indiana Code lists the responsibilities of a guardian. Where the protected person is a minor, the guardian has all of the authority and responsibilities of a parent. Where such a protected person owns some property, the guardian is responsible for the preservation of the property on behalf of the protected person. A guardian shall make periodic reports to the court about the mental and physical condition of the protected person. He shall also maintain close contact with the protected person so as to fulfill his obligation of support to such a person.
Guardian ad Litem
The Indiana Code specifies that a guardian ad litem must be appointed to take care of the interests of an alleged minor or incapacitated person where the court is not satisfied that such a person has adequate representation. A guardian ad litem is usually a lawyer who conducts independent investigations concerning the allegations of incapacitation and advises the court of his findings. Under Indiana law, the guardian ad litem shall make sure that the proposed guardian is capable of taking care of the protected person’s property where the person to be protected has some property. He shall also make written findings that the petition for the appointment of such a guardian is uncontested.