Ch. 3 - Q2: What is a guardian and what is a ward?

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Ch. 3 - Q2: What is a guardian and what is a ward?

A2:         A guardian is a person or institution appointed by a judge to take care of and be legally accountable for a person who cannot take care of himself or herself. 

The person that the guardian is responsible for is called the ward.  Wards are either minor children or incapacitated persons. 

  • A minor child is someone who is under the age of majority, which is under the age of 19 in the state of Nebraska. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-2101.
  • An incapacitated person is an adult who is impaired because of one or more of the following reasons:
    • Mental illness.
    • Mental deficiency.
    • Physical illness or disability.
    • Chronic use of drugs or chronic intoxication.
    • Other causes (except minority) “to the extent that the person lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning himself or herself.”                             

Guardianships provide people the legal authority to make decisions for a person who is in need of continuous care.  Guardians must act in the best interests of their ward while taking into account their ward’s desires and preferences.  Guardians must not, in any circumstances, act in a way that is self-serving or in a manner that is adverse to their ward’s well-being. 

It is important to remember that guardians are granted a great deal of power over their wards.  For instance, an incapacitated adult may no longer be able to arrange for their own medical care, make financial decisions, or even decide if they would like to marry once a full guardianship is ordered. Because of the confining nature of guardianships, other “less restrictive” means should be explored before pursuing a guardianship.   See also Surrogate Decision Making In Nebraska.