A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority and the duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person. The person who is being care for is legally known as a ward. Usually, a person has the status of legal guardian because the ward, usually a child, is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. The guardian is most often a relative, such as a grand parent, aunt or uncle, or cousin. However, the person does not have to be related to the individual, and it could simply be a friend of the family, or generally someone who cares about the well-being of the individual.
Most countries and states have laws that provide that the parents of a minor child are the legal custodian of that child, and that the parents can designate who shall become the child’s legal guardian in the event of their death. This is typically executed through a legal will, or last will and testament. This helps parents ensure that the child will be cared for according to their wishes. This is generally considered to be the least disruptive and the legal process is much easier than in other forms of guardianship.
Following are the various form of legal guardians:
General Guardianship – Courts generally have the power to appoint a legal guardian for an individual who is in need of special protection. A guardian with responsibility for both the personal well-being and the financial interests of the ward is known as a general custodian.
Special Guardianship – A person may also be appointed as a special guardian, who may have limited powers over the interests of the ward. A special attendant may, for example, be given the legal right to determine the disposition of the ward’s property without being given any authority over the ward’s person.
Guardian Ad Litem – A guardian appointed to represent the interests of a person with respect to a single action in litigation is a guardian ad litem. This is sometimes used during court cases or legal proceedings.
Natural Guardianship – Some jurisdictions allow the parent of a child to exercise the authority of a legal guardian without a formal court appointment. In such circumstances the parent acting in that capacity is called the natural custodian of that parent’s child.
View other legal and law definitions in our Investigation Glossary.