In law, a ‘ward’ is someone who the court deems unable to care for themselves. The most common example of this would be that of a child, and we frequently see minors being considered wards when it comes to cases that concern family or divorce law.
However, other people can also be considered wards. For example, an adult who is incapacitated due to disease or injury is unable to care for themselves. The elderly may be considered wards due to neurodegenerative disorders, as well as those under imprisonment since they have fewer rights and are under the care of the state.
When it comes to cases like that of divorce or child custody, the usual caretaker of the ward – most often a parent – wouldn’t be able to provide this care, so a guardian is appointed to look after the personal needs of the ward. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Personal Needs of the Ward
Understandably, the ward would be in an emotionally precarious situation. They are being taken care of by someone they aren’t used to, even if they are familiar with them, and their life is on the brink of change.
They need to feel understood and recognized, so they need a guardian who has a supportive relationship with them. They need to be listened to, and the language used with them should be meaningful to them. Due to their situation, they may be more likely to act out – especially in cases of minors – so their caretaker must make them feel understood, and help them calm down without undermining their feelings.
In some cases, the ward may also be physically removed from their usual location to keep them in a more ‘neutral’ place – such as in cases of divorce – and this can be difficult to deal with. Their caretaker must make sure they are meeting all the physical requirements of the ward. They should have all the things they need in their daily life, as well as their own space.
In cases of disabilities or disease, the ward may need constant care provided to them, but it’s important to remember that it can become a bit disturbing to be surrounded by people when they are already in a poor emotional situation. They should get the care they need, as well as the personal space for them to process their feelings and come to terms with what’s happening.
For younger children, the process becomes even more challenging, since the child is still in their developmental stage and needs care accordingly. They should feel loved and safe and have enough distractions around them. They should have someone to play with, and someone who will hear them out when they are feeling sad. They should be getting a proper diet, exercise, and sleep, and should be attending school regularly to maintain as much normalcy in their lives as possible.
Pros & Cons of Guardianship
Due to being under the care of the state, the ward is usually assigned a guardian, who will carry out the caretaking process. In comparison to other options, there could be several pros and cons to this.
For one thing, a guardian acts as a neutral third party who can make good decisions for the ward, and make sure that all their needs are met. They are not acting in favor of any of the other parties, since their only priority is the well-being of the ward, and they can be trusted to protect the ward and make the best decisions for them.
The Guardian also comes with court oversight, so they are being supervised by the court around how they make their decisions and manage assets to make sure they are truly carrying out their duty.
Being under the care of a guardian also means that some stability is offered to the ward and their family since they can all rest assured that there is someone who can take care of them. There are some downsides too, though.
A Guardian is appointed by the court, and the proceedings are often very costly and complicated. It can be very expensive to hire a guardian, especially since the court itself does not take on any financial responsibility, and the financial obligations fall on the ward and their family.
Another downside is that the ward doesn’t get to choose who their guardian is. In some cases, such as when the power of attorney is created before incapacity, you get to make the decision, but in guardianship proceedings, this is not the case. This could result in the ward feeling uncomfortable with who they are assigned as a caretaker.
Guardianship also means that the court becomes directly involved in private family matters. Since the guardian is overlooked by the court, any decisions made for the ward will be reviewed by the court, which can become somewhat uncomfortable – especially in emotionally heavy circumstances.
There are quite a few things to consider when looking at what the ward needs and how a guardian can help them. For more information on complex topics like Estate planning Manhattan and what decisions you should make in case of legal trouble, Ledwidge & Associates’ Estate lawyer Queens can help you out. Visit the website for more information!