If an adult is or becomes unable to make decisions or perform tasks, no one else can act on their behalf without some grant of authority. Whether it is routine tasks such as banking and paying bills, or making health care decisions such as admitting oneself to a medical facility and enacting a plan of treatment, no one else can make decisions for another adult unless that adult has given them the power to act, or a court has taken away the person’s rights and given them so someone else.
A competent adult can share their authority to make decisions through a power of attorney, which remains in effect even if the adult becomes incompetent. When the courts must take away a person’s rights because of incompetency, that is called guardianship.
In an adult guardianship proceeding, a judge, court-appointed attorneys, and representatives for the County will review medical assessments, statements of family members, and other records – including the existence (or not) of powers of attorney – to determine if an adult is capable of managing their own decisions. If the court decides the person is not competent, the court will give the person’s rights to another person or business to exercise on his or her behalf. The court might also decide where the adult will have to live.
The appointed person is called the “guardian,” and he or she must file annual reports of the “ward’s” income, assets, and expenses, as well as general well-being, with the court to ensure they are properly managing the ward’s life financially and physically.