What Is an Adult Ward of the State?

By Sarah L. Harrer - Updated May 31, 2017
Disabled man receives assistance

An adult ward of the state is a person who is deemed incompetent and incapable of making independent decisions. These people usually have mental or physical disabilities. Adult wards of the state do not have adult family members who are willing and able to serve as guardians. Guardians are appointed from local government agencies to make decisions for them.


Adult wards of the state are first deemed incompetent by the court. This occurs after an assessment is done to evaluate competency. After adjudication of incompetence, they are appointed guardians who are directors of local human services agencies such as county departments of social services, mental health agencies, health departments and county departments for the aging.


Once a person becomes an adult ward of the state, the appointed guardian provides services to maintain the person’s well being. A guardian provides ongoing casework to the individual, his family and his caregivers. The guardian can make decisions about where the person will live and manage his finances. The guardian can also authorize medical treatment for the adult ward of the state. The guardian must also file status reports with the court.


Most states allow both voluntary and involuntary guardianships. Adults who are mentally competent but incapable of handling their estates independently may ask for voluntary guardianships. Involuntary guardianships are based on adjudication of incompetence by the court, which means that the ward of the state has no say in the appointment of a guardian.


An adult ward of the state is protected by law once she is deemed incompetent. The guardian has control over all monetary and property decisions, so it is difficult for someone to take advantage of her. The adult ward also knows that there is someone looking out for her best interest, and that she is required to do so by law.

About the Author

Sarah L. Harrer has more than eight years of experience as an editor at Thomson Reuters. She has edited titles such as "Lindey on Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts," and written several continuing education manuals. Harrer's work has also been published in "The Pioneer" and "The Angle." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. John Fisher College.

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