What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court order that allows one person to make decisions for another person. There are two types of adult guardianships in Michigan. The first is for persons described as “legally incapacitated individuals” and the other is specifically for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. (Michigan law also provides for a “conservatorship” which is like a guardianship except it only gives a person control over another person’s property, assets, and money.)

You have rights if someone asks the court to appoint a guardian. If you are under a guardianship, you also have rights to ask that the guardianship be changed or terminated.

Most people with a disability are able to take care of their own lives without a guardian. Because guardianship deprives people of their rights, it should be used only rarely. Disability Rights Michigan recommends use of alternatives to guardianship, described below.

Alternatives to Guardianship

There are other ways to help someone without having a guardian appointed.  Every person is unique and so is his/her situation. It is also important to consider what the individual wants for him/herself before making a final decision.

Most people with a disability can take care of their own lives without a guardian. When a court gives powers to a guardian, they take those same powers away from the person. Because guardianship is a powerful tool that seriously restricts the rights of the person, it should only be used when necessary. For that reason, it is important to look at alternatives.

A Guardian’s Responsibilities

If a person can communicate his/her wishes a Guardian has a duty to consult with them before making major decisions. The Guardian is a fiduciary. A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons to manage assets. Essentially, a fiduciary owes to that other entity the duties of good faith and trust.
A full list of a legally incapacitated individual guardian’s responsibilities can be found in MCLA 700.5314. Most importantly, “The guardian shall secure services to restore the ward to the best possible state of mental and physical well-being so that the ward can return to self-management at the earliest possible time.”
A full list of a guardian’s responsibilities to a person with a developmental disability are listed in MCLA 330.1631. Again the guardian has, “The duty to make a reasonable effort to secure for the ward training, education, medical, and psychological services, and social and vocational opportunity as are appropriate and as will assist the ward in the development of maximum self-reliance and independence.”

Advance Directives

An Advance Directive is a document that allows you to determine your medical care in the future or who can make decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to make them yourself.

This information is a service of Disability Rights Michigan (DRM). It provides general information, based on the law at the time we wrote it, and is not legal advice. You do not have an attorney-client relationship with DRM. If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney. If you would like more information about this topic or would like to receive this information in an alternative format call DRM at 800.288.5923.

How Can We Help?
Contact Us Anytime

We want to hear from you! Whether you're looking for advocacy, have a question, or just want to connect, please reach out.


Contact Us