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Exploring Different Types of Guardianship for Adults: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to making decisions about guardianship, the choices can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to provide you with valuable insights so you can make the best decision for your loved one. In this guide, we’ll explain the different types of guardianship for adults as well as alternatives for guardianship. We’ll cover everything from definitions and processes to rights, responsibilities, and legal considerations. Empower yourself to make informed decisions for yourself or your loved ones.

For personalized assistance and legal advice on estate planning, contact one of our Cary guardianship lawyers at Cary Estate Planning today. Start securing your future with peace of mind.

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal arrangement that grants a person, known as the guardian, the authority and responsibility to make decisions on behalf of another individual who cannot make those decisions independently. This can occur when the person under guardianship is incapacitated, incompetent, or unable to care for themselves due to factors such as mental illness, developmental disability, or physical impairment. The court may appoint a guardian to protect the best interests of the person and ensure their well-being. The guardian may have powers and duties related to financial decisions, medical treatment, and overall care. Understanding the concept of guardianship is crucial when navigating the complexities of adult guardianship and ensuring the proper care and protection of individuals in need.

Full Guardianship

Full guardianship refers to a type of guardianship where the appointed guardian assumes complete responsibility for the decision-making and care of an individual who is unable to make decisions independently. In a full guardianship arrangement, the guardian can make important decisions regarding the person’s healthcare, finances, living arrangements, and overall well-being. This type of guardianship is typically sought when the person under guardianship is deemed fully incapacitated and unable to manage their affairs due to mental illness or developmental disability. The court order appointing a full guardian outlines the specific powers and duties bestowed upon the guardian, ensuring the best interests and welfare of the person under guardianship.

Limited Guardianship

Limited guardianship grants a guardian specific powers and responsibilities over certain aspects of an individual’s life while allowing the individual to retain decision-making autonomy in other areas. This type of guardianship is suitable for individuals who may require support and assistance in certain aspects of their lives but still have the capacity to make decisions in other areas. The guardian’s authority is limited to the specific areas defined by the court order, such as financial matters or healthcare decisions. Limited guardianship provides a balanced approach, ensuring that the individual’s autonomy is respected while providing necessary support and guidance where needed.

Temporary Guardianship

Temporary guardianship is a provisional arrangement where a designated individual assumes the role of a guardian for a limited period of time. It is often employed in situations where immediate action is required to ensure the safety and well-being of an individual. Temporary guardianship allows for the appointed guardian to make critical decisions on behalf of the person under guardianship, such as medical treatment or financial matters. This temporary arrangement is usually established through a court order and may be terminated once the immediate concerns are resolved or a more permanent guardianship arrangement is implemented. Temporary guardianship serves as a vital tool to provide necessary care and support during times of urgency or transition.


Co-guardianship is a unique arrangement where two or more individuals are appointed guardians for an individual who requires support and decision-making assistance. This type of guardianship is often chosen when multiple individuals, such as family members or close friends, wish to share the responsibilities and authority of being a guardian. Co-guardians work collaboratively to make important decisions regarding the person’s well-being, healthcare, and financial matters. This arrangement allows for a distribution of responsibilities, combining the strengths and abilities of multiple guardians. However, it’s essential to navigate the legal requirements and considerations involved in establishing co-guardianship to ensure a smooth and effective decision-making process for the person under guardianship.

Alternatives to Guardianship

While guardianship is a beneficial choice for many people, there are other options available, such as:

  • Power of Attorney: Granting decision-making authority to a trusted individual for specific matters, such as finances or healthcare.
  • Advance Directives: Legal documents that outline a person’s healthcare wishes, such as a living will or healthcare proxy.
  • Care Management: Engaging a professional care manager to coordinate and oversee the individual’s care and services.
  • Special Needs Trust: Establishing a trust to manage and protect assets for the benefit of an individual with special needs.

These alternatives offer varying degrees of support and decision-making autonomy, providing alternatives to full guardianship while still ensuring the well-being and protection of the individual.

Contact Cary Estate Planning Today

Whether it’s full guardianship, limited guardianship, temporary guardianship, or co-guardianship, each option has its own considerations and benefits. It’s crucial to assess the specific needs and circumstances of your loved one to determine the most suitable guardianship arrangement. Seeking legal advice and guidance throughout the process is highly recommended to ensure compliance with the legal requirements and to make informed decisions.

At Cary Estate Planning, our dedicated team of Cary estate planning attorneys is here to provide personalized legal support on guardianship matters. Contact us today and take the first step towards securing the future and well-being of your loved ones.

Call now to schedule your free consultation.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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