Guardianship/Conservatorship

Resource Guide

A guardianship or conservatorship is a relationship created by a court which gives the guardian the ability to make decisions for the ward.  State law and terminology vary, but typically the process begins with a finding that the ward is incapacitated and the court appoints someone as a guardian of the person and/or the property of the ward.  While guardianships are meant to protect the interests of the incapacitated person, there is a possibility of exploitation or abuse by the guardian.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Featured Resources

Adult Guardianship Initiative Strategic Action Plan. (December 2016).

This plan was recently approved by the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators Joint Committee on Elders and the Courts. The Initiative focuses on partnerships of key stakeholders, prioritizes the protection and enhancement of individual rights, promotes modernization and transparency in the guardianship/conservatorship process, and improves court oversight.

Center for Elders and the Courts.

The mission of the Center for Elders and the Courts is to provide leadership and resources to courts on a spectrum of issues impacting the elderly.

Van Duizend, Richard and Brenda Uekert National Probate Court Standards. (2013).

The revised standards replace the 1993 standards and reflect 20 years of evolution of probate courts. While they are aspirational in nature, the goals should be obtainable by probate courts that are provided with reasonable levels of resources. The Standards focus on probate court but would apply to any judge responsible for a probate matter.

Steelman, David C., Alicia K. Davis, Daniel J. Hall Improving Protective Probate Practices: An Assessment of Guardianship and Conservatorship Procedures in the Probate and Mental Health Department of the Maricopa County Superior Court. (August 2011). National Center for State Courts This report provides an in-depth study of adult guardianship and conservatorship cases handled by the Maricopa Probate Court. 
Uekert, Brenda K. and Richard Van Duizend Adult Guardianships: A “Best Guess” National Estimate and the Momentum for Reform. (2011). Future Trends in State Courts 2011, National Center for State Courts A projection of active pending adult-guardianship cases nationwide demonstrates the need for improved data collection.

Guardianship Data

Uekert, Brenda K. Adult Guardianship Court Data and Issues. (March 2010). National Center for State Courts This report contains recommendations based on an online survey carried out by the CCJ/COSCA Joint Task Force on Elders and the Courts and NCSC’s Center for Elders and the Courts (CEC).
Uekert, Brenda and Richard Schauffler The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data. (March 2010). Judicature, Vol. 93, no. 5 This article reviews the current status of the state courts’ ability to report adult guardianship data.  Without this data courts will be unable to monitor individual cases or forecast trends.
Uekert, Brenda K. and Richard Y. Schauffler The Need for Improved Adult Guardianship Data. (November 2008). Caseload Highlights. Vol. 15, No. 2. National Center for State Courts This issue of caseload highlights reviews the current state of guardianship data and describes some new approaches to more effective case management based on improved data.
Shirley Bondon. The Future of Court-Oriented Decision-Making Assistance: Perspective from the Washington State Office of Public Guardianship. (2009). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2009.

Increases in three populations—the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the homeless—will require courts to rethink and revise approaches to decision-making assistance.

Oversight of Guardians

Adult Guardianship Guide: A Guide to Plan, Develop and Sustain a Comprehensive Court Guardianship and Conservatorship Program. (2014).

National Association for Court Management. This guide emphasizes the need for court guardianship programs and provides a useful tool for the development, continuation and self-assessment of such initiatives.

WINGS Tips State Replication Guide for Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders . (2014).

The guide is based on statewide efforts in Indiana, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.  The development of WINGS is supported by the 11 member organizations of the National Guardianship Network.

Third National Guardianship Summit. (2011). This webite reviews the Guardianship Summit recommendations.
Incapacitated Adults: Oversight of Federal Fiduciaries and Court-Appointed Guardians Needs Improvement. (July 2011). This report assesses procedures for screening and monitoring of fiduciaries and guardians of incapacitated persons at both the state and federal level.
Guardianships: Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors. (September 2010). United States Government Accountability Office The GAO could not determine whether allegations of abuse by guardians were widespread but did identify hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010.
Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly. (July 2010). Supreme Court of South Carolina This report from the task force looks at ways to improve court procedures, court resources, and services for the elderly and vulnerable adults.
Uekert, Brenda K. and Thomas Dibble Guardianship of the Elderly Past Performance and Future Promises. (2008). The Court Manager This article provides a national review of guardianship issues that affect the state courts.
Probate Court Volunteer Visitors Program. (May 2005). National Center for State Courts The Volunteer Visitor Programs are Probate Court-sponsored efforts to enhance the court’s capacity to monitor the care, condition, and assets of incapacitated adults and to assist guardians in fulfilling their reporting responsibilities.
Teaster, Pamela B. et al Wards of the State: A National Study of Public Guardianship. (April 2005). Graduate Center for Gerontology, University of Kentucky and the ABA Commission on Law and Aging This report provides an overview of adult guardianship, a review of the literature, and an analysis of public guardianship law, in addition to a national survey of public guardianship.
Guardianship and Conservatorship “Red Flags”. (2002).

These “red flags” serve as risk indicators in guardianship or conservatorship cases.

Brenda K. Uekert and Richard Van Duizend. Adult Guardianships: A "Best Guess" National Estimate and the Momentum for Reform. (2011). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2011.

A projection of active pending adult-guardianship cases nationwide demonstrates the need for improved data collection. Retrospectively, 2010 may be remembered as a pivotal year in the call for guardianship reform at both federal and state levels.

Stiegel, Lori A. and Erica F. Wood Nine Ways to Reduce Elder Abuse Through Enactment of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act. American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging This paper looks at the connection between guardianship and elder abuse and encourages adoption of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act (UAGPPJA) as a way to address the problems that can occur in multi-jurisdiction guardianship proceedings.

State Programs

Virginia's Guardianship and Conservatorship Proceedings Regarding Incapacitated Adults.

(February 2015). The Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia. This report was designed for circuit court clerks to distribute to and help educate petitioners, guardians ad litem, attorneys, evaluators, guaridans, and conservators.

Assessing the Potential Need for Public Guardianship Services in Washington State.

(December 2011).  Washington State Institute for Public Policy. This report uses two different sources to estimate the need for public guardianship services in Washington State.

Joint Review Committee on the Status of Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships in the Nebraska Court System Report. (October 2010). This final report includes recommendations of the committee and includes proposed statutory amendments, proposed court forms and a map of the Nebraska Judicial Branch Case Counts of Monitored (actively open) Guardianships and Conservatorships, as of May 28, 2010.
Carns,Teresa W., Susan McKelvie Alaska`s Adult Guardianship Mediation Project Evaluation. (March 2009). Alaska Judicial Council The Alaska Court System created a program to provide mediation in appropriate adult guardianship and conservatorship cases. The program began work in 2005, and has handled about 113 cases since then.
Minnesota Conservatorship Reporting System. Minnesota Judicial Branch

The Conservator Account Monitoring Preparation and Electronic Reporting System (CAMPERS) allows conservators appointed by courts to file their reports online.

New Jersey Courts Guardianship Monitoring.

This program uses trained volunteers to oversee guardianship cases involving incapacitated adults. The volunteers report to the court on the well-being of the wards and the status of their assets. Mandated training must be completed prior to assignment. Volunteers (often with a background in accounting, finance, or bookkeeping) examine court-required financial reports to ensure that timely and accurate accountings of wards' assets are submitted.