Guardianship is a legal relationship in which someone (the guardian) is authorized by the clerk of superior court to be a substitute decision maker for an incompetent adult (the individual under guardianship). Incompetence is determined in a court proceeding and means an individual is unable to manage his own affairs, or is unable to make important decisions.
Three types of guardian:
- Guardian of the person (makes decisions in most areas of the individual under guardianship's life, such as where they live, what type of care they receive, medical decisions)
- Guardian of the Estate (has authority to manage the individual under guardianship's income and property) and
- General Guardian (has the powers and duties of both guardian of the person, and guardian of the estate)
Anyone, including a family member, a representative of a Social Work Services, mental health center, health department, or anyone else who knows the person, may file a written request (a petition) with the clerk of superior court alleging that an adult should be declared incompetent and have a guardian appointed. Every clerk's office has forms that may be completed and filed for the petition. Currently the Adult Protective Service Unit may file a petition on individuals who are either indigent, or in need of protection, AND HAVE NO ONE WHO CAN OR WILL ACT IN THEIR BEHALF.
The Social Work Services currently contracts with Hope for the Future, Inc. to serve as Guardian for a number of individual under guardianships, who either have no family, or none available to serve in that capacity.