Understanding the Duties of a Legal Guardian

Understanding the Duties of a Legal Guardian for an Incapacitated Adult

Being appointed as a legal guardian for an incapacitated adult in South Carolina’s Probate Court is a significant responsibility that entails ensuring the well-being and best interests of the individual under your care.

The probate court oversees the appointment of guardians for adults who cannot make decisions or manage their affairs due to incapacity. The incapacity can be temporary (such as a brain injury from which someone may recover) or permanent (such as a dementia-related diagnosis).

This article discusses the duties and responsibilities of a legal guardian for an incapacitated adult to help you understand the important role you may be called upon to fulfill.

Acting in the Best Interests of the Incapacitated Adult

The primary duty of a legal guardian is to act in the best interests of the incapacitated adult under their care. This responsibility includes making decisions regarding the adult's personal welfare, financial affairs, and medical treatment based on what is deemed in their best interests. Most importantly, it means putting their interest before your own and not making decisions in your own best interest that do not benefit the person you are appointed to protect.

Making Healthcare Decisions

In addition to managing financial affairs, a legal guardian is tasked with making healthcare decisions for the incapacitated adult.

These decisions include:

  • Consenting to medical treatment
  • Choosing healthcare providers and ensuring proper care
  • Making end-of-life care decisions

The guardian must make these decisions all while considering the adult's wishes and preferences (to the extent possible).

Providing for the Adult’s Care and Support

A legal guardian is responsible for providing care and support to the incapacitated adult, including arranging housing, transportation, and other essential services. This duty extends to ensuring that the adult's basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, are met in a safe and dignified manner.

Managing Financial Affairs

If a conservator has not been appointed, a legal guardian is responsible for managing the incapacitated adult's financial affairs, including paying bills, managing assets, and making financial decisions on their behalf. If a conservator is appointed, many of those duties will be delegated to that person.

As a guardian, you may be required to:

  • Create and adhere to a budget
  • Invest assets prudently
  • Ensure that the adult's financial needs are met

Reporting to the Probate Court

A legal guardian must submit periodic reports (annually in South Carolina) to the probate court detailing the adult's condition, financial status, and any significant decisions or actions taken on their behalf. These reports help ensure transparency and accountability in the guardianship arrangement and allow the court to monitor the guardian's performance.

Acting Prudently and Ethically

Throughout their tenure, a legal guardian must act prudently and ethically in carrying out their duties.

This responsibility includes:

  • Exercising sound judgment
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest
  • Always acting in the best interests of the incapacitated adult

Should you have any questions about whether you are acting appropriately, please contact legal counsel.

Guardianship Responsibilities and Legal Guidance

Being appointed as a legal guardian for an incapacitated adult is a solemn responsibility requiring compassion, diligence, and a commitment to upholding the adult's rights and dignity. By understanding the duties and responsibilities outlined by the South Carolina probate court, guardians can effectively fulfill their role in safeguarding the well-being and interests of those entrusted to their care.

If you have been appointed as a legal guardian or are considering petitioning for guardianship, seek guidance from an experienced attorney who can provide the support and counsel you need to navigate this vital legal process.

At Main Office, our knowledgeable Summerville attorneys are here to assist you every step of the way.

Contact us at (800) 914-0620 today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.