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Legal Guardian

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The Outagamie County Department of Human Services is responsible for providing volunteers to serve as legal guardians for individuals who have been found to be incompetent. In this role, we recruit, offer training and serve as a resource to individuals who are interested in assuming this challenge.

Definition of a Guardian
A guardian is an individual appointed by the court to act as an advocate for a person who has been found to be incompetent. Responsibilities can include overseeing the individual's welfare and making personal decisions on his/her behalf, in addition to managing his/her assets and property.

Definition of Incompetent
Incompetent is a legal term used for define an individual adjudged by the court to be substantially incapable of managing his/her property or caring for him/herself by reason of chronic mental illness, developmental disability, infirmities of aging, or chronic alcohol/drug abuse.

Guardianship Questions 

  1. How does a person become a guardian?
    • A petition is filed with the court for an appointment of a guardian.
    • The proposed ward (alleged incompetent) is examined by a physician or psychologist, who then offers an opinion regarding competency.
    • A court hearing is held, a finding of incompetency is made, and a guardian is appointed.
  2. Who can serve as a guardian? 
    • A guardian must be a mature and responsible adult who is capable of fulfilling their responsibilities. Preference is given to family and other relatives when appointing a guardian. If this is not possible, a volunteer is nominated. All volunteer guardians are registered with our department. 
  3.  What are the responsibilities of a guardian?
    • Responsibilities are determined by the court and will depend upon whether a full guardianship is ordered or a partial one (meaning of the person only, or estate only). 
  4.  What are the responsibilities of a guardian of the person?
    • Making decisions regarding care, such as: place of residence, medical services, and social needs.
    • Acting as an advocate for the ward.
    • Securing necessary services to meet the needs of the ward.
    • Reporting to the court as requested. 
  5. What are the responsibilities of a guardian of the estate?
    • Receive all income.
    • Pay for the ward's care and expenses out of the ward's income.
    • Invest the ward's assets wisely.
    • Report to the court on an annual basis. 
  6.  Will I be assisted in fulfilling these responsibilities?
    • The court and the Department of Human Services will be actively involved in overseeing the ward's care and are always available to you for questions or concerns. 
  7.  What am I liable for?
    • You are liable for any negligence on your part for the misappropriation of funds and for any willful or inexcusable refusal or failure to file your annual account or provide for the care of your ward. You are not responsible for paying for your ward's care or expenses out of your personal income or for providing personal care of the ward. 
  8. What is the role of the guardian when family members are involved and interested in the ward?
    • When family exists but are not serving as guardian, the guardian is asked to consider them whenever possible. It is the guardian, though, that is responsible for the final decision. 
  9. What amount of time will I have to invest?
    • Depending upon the individual ward, involvement can vary from contact once a month to weekly. When a volunteer is matched with a ward, every effort is made to consider the volunteer's schedule so conflict can be avoided. 
  10. Will I be paid for my services?
    • Guardians may deduct certain expenses from the ward's estate if the ward's assets are sufficient. If you desire compensation and the ward's assets are insufficient, the County can provide mileage reimbursement. 
  11.  How can I terminate my role as guardian?
    • You should inform the Probate Office and our department as soon as possible of this request. To appoint a successor guardian, the process is the same as when the guardianship was initially established. A successor guardian must be found before you can be discharged.

If you are interested in this volunteer opportunity or would like more information, please contact:

Volunteer Services
Outagamie County
Department of Human Services
(920) 832-5515