A temporary guardian's job is to provide short-term care for an individual referred to as a ward. Wards may be minor children or adults suffering from physical, emotional or mental limitations. Generally, a court appoints a temporary guardian. For example, if an adult has no close family members and suffers an incapacitating stroke, a probate judge has the power to quickly appoint a temporary guardian so as not to delay the patient's critical care decisions. The lengths of appointments and legal oversights for temporary guardians vary based on state laws. For example, in Maine, appointments expire after 6 months. In Oregon, appointments expire in 30 days, but may be extended 30 more days upon a showing of good cause.
Best Interests of the Ward
A temporary guardian must always act in the best interest of his ward. Generally, a temporary guardian is granted specific powers by a court to meet the individual needs of the ward at issue. Although state laws governing temporary guardians vary, all temporary guardians must exercise their powers in manners that best serve their wards. For example, if a ward must undergo surgery, the temporary guardian should choose a hospital based on what hospital offers the best care for his ward rather than a hospital that is conveniently located.
Duties of Care
A temporary guardian commonly makes decisions and judgments about her ward's medical treatment. A temporary guardian's responsibilities typically include ensuring a ward receives routine care, such as doctor and dental visits or extended care for specific health conditions. A temporary guardian is not personally responsible to pay the ward's medical expenses unless he volunteers to do so. Arranging for transportation for a ward to and from health facilities, or arranging necessary home care are common responsibilities of a temporary guardian.
A temporary guardian also may have control over her ward's living accommodations. A ward may reside with the temporary guardian as in the case of a relative providing temporary care for an orphaned minor. A temporary guardian may also arrange for accommodations, such as hospice or assisted living, for an ailing individual. Depending on the individual circumstances, courts also generally grant discretion to temporary guardians regarding a ward's vacations, field trips and retreats requiring overnight living arrangements.
Schooling and Religion
Temporary guardians generally control the place of worship a ward attends and the education a ward receives. These decisions are usually centered on caring for minors. Temporary guardians are encouraged by courts to maintain continuity when considering these choices. For instance, a child who needs a short-term guardian should experience as little disruption as possible in schooling and faith patterns unless the status quo is against his best interests.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.