In last week’s column, I covered Conservatorships, regarding court appointment of a person to manage finances and property of another. In Colorado, a Conservatorship is different from a Guardianship, which pertains to an incapacitated person who needs help making decisions concerning their physical health, care or safety.
In Colorado, Petitions for Conservatorship and Guardianship may be filed together with the Court, under the same case number and payment of a single docket fee. The court must make a finding of incapacity. A person for whom a guardian is appointed is called a “ward”.
An incapacitated adult is defined under the law as an adult “who is unable to effectively receive or evaluate information or both or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance.”
“Technological assistance” means, for example, using available eyeglasses or hearing aids, which may make all the difference in whether a person can function independently and is not incapacitated. A guardian can be any person age 21 or older, regardless of whether that person resides in Colorado. Typical examples of guardians are family members, professional guardians, volunteers or the Department of Human Services in some in counties. A proposed guardian must first submit an Acceptance of Office document, which includes a name-based criminal history check and current credit report, for court review and approval.
A guardian has certain legal duties and responsibilities, to make decisions on behalf of the ward, within the scope of the guardian’s authority, as stated in the Order of Appointment from the court. The primary duties are for a guardian to see that the basic daily personal needs of the ward are met regarding food, clothing and shelter (without any requirement that the guardian personally pay for the ward’s care).
Selected information in this column has been taken with permission by Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, Inc., from the Colorado Senior Law Handbook, which is a copyrighted publication and may be accessed and downloaded for free at: www.cobar.org/For-the-Public/Senior-Law-Handbook.
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