When people in North Carolina are unable to make decisions for themselves because of incapacity, guardians may be appointed by the court to act on their behalf. Guardians may also be named in a will to take care of minors and others who are incapacitated following the death of the testator. A guardian might also be the spouse of the incapacitated person or a state employee.

Types of decisions that are made by guardians

Guardians make many decisions for their wards, which are the incapacitated people they are appointed to protect. Some of the decisions that guardians might make include the following:

• Giving consent for medical treatment
• Arranging for necessities to be purchased, including food, medicine, cars, clothes, and household furnishings
• Managing the bank accounts and finances of the ward
• Arranging for the educational needs of the ward
• Paying bills for the ward

Guardians wield substantial power over the lives of the ward, making it important for the people who are selected to fulfill this role are chosen carefully. People who are chosen or appointed to serve as guardians must always keep the best interests of the wards in mind and must be willing and able to perform their duties.

Removing a guardian

Guardians may be removed in certain circumstances. If a ward has regained his or her capacity or has reached the age of majority, the guardian may be removed. The court can also order the removal of a guardian if he or she has not provided adequate care for the ward or has neglected the ward. Examples of neglect that could prompt the removal of a guardian include using the ward’s money and property for the benefit of the guardian or failing to obey court orders. If a guardian is removed by the court, a substitute guardian may be appointed to serve in his or her place.

The family members of people who are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves might want to talk to experienced attorneys about the guardianship process. People who are planning their estates and who have minor children or who are caring for incapacitated adults may want to include provisions in their wills to name guardians to care for them after the testators die.