Law Office of Shannon DeWall, PLLC



Guardianship, Part 1

Posted on December 1, 2019 at 4:35 PM

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal process where someone’s rights are taken away and given to someone else. The person whose rights are taken away is called the “ward.” The person who makes decisions for the ward is called the “guardian.” The probate court appoints a guardian when the ward can no longer make their own decisions due to injury, illness, or disability. The guardian has the responsibility of making healthcare decisions and decisions about where the ward will live. To obtain a guardianship, a petition must be filed with the probate court.

It is important to keep in mind that the probate court judge decides who will be guardian. In Michigan, a judge is supposed to follow a certain order of priority when choosing a guardian. For example, a spouse should be first choice, and if there is no spouse, then an adult child. However, a judge may reject this order and appoint a professional guardian instead.


What is Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is similar to guardianship, but instead of making healthcare and custody decisions, a conservator makes financial decisions for the ward.


What is a Financial Power of Attorney?

A financial power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the authority to handle an individual’s financial matters if they are unable to handle their own affairs. The person creating the power of attorney is called the “principal.” The person who handles the principal’s financial matters is known as an “attorney-in-fact.” Usually, the attorney-in-fact has broad powers including, but not limited to, signing checks, paying bills, and selling property for the principal.


Creating a financial power of attorney is a private matter where the principal has complete control to choose who will be the attorney-in-fact. The court is not involved in this decision. Also, the principal does not lose their rights like a ward does. The principal remains in control and has the ability to cancel a financial power of attorney at any time. Having a financial power of attorney in place prevents the need for a conservator.


What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney is a document that grants someone called the patient advocate the authority to handle an individual’s medical decisions when that person is unable to make their own decisions. The patient advocate has the power to make decisions involving the principal’s medical treatment, medication, and even whether to start or stop life-saving treatment. Having a healthcare power of attorney in place prevents the need for a guardian.



Do you have questions about guardianship or conservatorship? Whether you need help establishing guardianship or conservatorship for a loved one, or finding alternatives, we can help. Contact us at (734) 237-8507 or e-mail us at [email protected] We can help you navigate this complicated area.


Categories: Elder Law