When an individual is unable to provide for his or her basic needs, a court may appoint a guardian. This may happen if a child has no one to provide care or when an adult suffers from a mental illness or is otherwise unable to make his or her own decisions. For instance, if an individual has a drug problem or is in a coma, a guardian may be appointed.
While a guardian is generally a single individual, it may be permissible for a corporate entity to be awarded guardianship. The length of the guardianship may be limited by the court depending on the circumstances under which guardianship is awarded. For instance, if a parent leaves a child behind for a limited amount of time, another family member may be named guardian until the parent returns.
A guardian may be named a guardian of a person or a guardian of an estate. In certain cases, a guardian may be named for both a person and his or her estate. A personal guardian makes decisions as to where the ward lives or when or how that person gets medical treatment. A guardian of the estate manages and makes decisions regarding an individual's finances. Guardians of both a person and an estate are generally entitled to make all decisions regarding that person and his or her finances.
As part of the estate planning process, it may be worthwhile to create a health care or financial power of attorney or designate a guardian for a minor child. An estate planning attorney can assist in the preparation of those and other documents.
Source: Ohio Attorney General, "Ohio Guardianship Guide", January 05, 2015