In our democracy, the responsibility of the government is to protect its people. For those who cannot make decisions for themselves, including minor children and incapacitated adults, there is a legal process for the appointment of guardians to provide those protections specified by competent adults and the courts.

Guardianships begin with the court unless you initiate the process in your estate plan. The guardianship process is an important topic of conversation you should have with an estate planning attorney. We’ve been having these kinds of conversations with individuals and families in Elizabethtown, Louisville, Radcliff, Bardstown, Shepherdsville, and throughout Kentucky for decades. If you are ready to discuss guardianships as part of an estate plan, or if you have been named as a guardian and want to learn more about your roles and responsibilities, reach out to Caleb Bland Law, PLLC.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianships allow one person to legally make decisions for another person. A guardian is a person appointed by the probate court to make decisions regarding personal and/or financial matters for a minor child or an incapacitated or disabled adult. Kentucky statutes refer to the person appointed to oversee personal matters as a “guardian” and one who oversees financial matters as a “conservator;” however, one person may be responsible for both.

The court may appoint any person or public or private entity capable of carrying out the responsibilities of a guardian, although it will avoid choosing an individual or entity otherwise providing services to the ward, such as a home health or skilled nursing facility.

The court will attempt to ask the ward about their preference for the appointment. If the ward gave their power of attorney to someone prior to incapacitation or disability, the court considers that person or entity to be the ward’s preference.



What Can a Guardian Do?

Guardians have a number of abilities and responsibilities, including:

  • Establishing the ward’s residence in the state

  • Providing for the ward’s maintenance, care, and comfort

  • Making arrangements for rehabilitation, education, social, and vocational services with an eye toward helping the ward achieve maximum independence

  • Providing consent for medical treatment and other professional care

  • Limiting denial of the ward’s civil rights and personal freedom only to the extent required for the ward’s necessary care

  • Spending the ward’s financial resources as needed for their care

What Can’t a Guardian Do?

A guardian cannot provide consent for certain medical procedures such as abortion, sterilization, or amputation without court approval except in an emergency situation. The guardian also cannot make investment and other financial decisions if a conservator or power of attorney with that authority is charged with making those decisions.

What Types of Guardianships Are There?

There are five types of guardianships/conservatorships in Kentucky:

  1. A full guardian/full conservator oversees both the personal and financial affairs of the ward.

  2. A personal guardian handles only personal needs.

  3. A conservator is assigned fiduciary responsibilities, overseeing the ward’s financial affairs.

  4. A limited guardian is tasked to oversee some of the ward’s personal needs while the ward handles others on their own.

  5. A limited conservator oversees some of the ward’s financial affairs while the ward takes care of some of their own.

How Are Guardians Appointed?

There are three major steps in the appointment of a guardian. First, a petition must be filed with the court by someone seeking guardianship. The potential ward is the respondent to the petition. A team comprising a physician, social worker, and psychologist will then make recommendations to the court regarding the respondent’s need for guardianship. A hearing will be held and if the court finds the respondent needs a guardian, it will appoint one.

If the incapacitated or disabled person signed a durable power of attorney (POA) while capable, the court appointment may be avoided since the POA becomes effective upon the incapacitation or disability of the signer. However, if the POA does not specify authority for certain needs, the court process will be necessary. For example, if the POA allows the attorney-in-fact to conduct the person’s financial affairs but not their personal needs, a guardian will need to be appointed for that purpose.


Guardianships are left to the court’s discretion unless you have addressed the issue as part of a comprehensive estate plan. By being proactive, you can choose your own guardian and assign specific responsibilities to them. At Caleb Bland Law, PLLC, we have been helping clients in Elizabethtown, Louisville, Radcliff, Bardstown, Shepherdsville, Hodgenville, Leitchfield, and throughout Kentucky make important and difficult decisions like appointing a power of attorney or naming a guardian for their minor children. Call our office today to schedule a time to talk.