In North Carolina, guardianship is a legal relationship in which a guardian is assigned by the clerk of superior court to be the sole decision maker for an adult who has been deemed incompetent. The legal definition of incompetence is an adult is unable to manage his/her own affairs, or is unable to make cognitive decisions concerning himself/herself, family, or property.
A legal guardian is necessary for incompetent adults age 18 and up. For persons under age 18 who are deemed incompetent, their parent(s) serve as guardian(s). After the age of 18, a person has the authority to make their own decisions and manage their own affairs. If a person’s condition renders them incompetent, a guardian must be appointed to them.
*This list is not conclusive of determining whether a person is incompetent. Every person may be affected differently by any of these conditions.
Legal guardians are to make sure the needs of their ward are met. They are responsible for the care and comfort of the person who has been deemed incompetent. This includes deciding where the ward will live, authorizing health care for the ward, and managing the wards finances. A legal guardian must also periodically file status reports and accounts with the court to make sure their ward is not being taken advantage of and their needs are being met. Although a legal guardian is responsible for their ward’s finances, they are not expected to personally bear the financial obligations of their ward. They may be reimbursed by the ward’s estate for any out-of-pocket expenses that are incurred while carrying out their duties as a guardian. Guardians are also not liable for debts of the ward or any damages that result from medical treatment to which the guardian authorized.