Guardianships in North Carolina

When a person is no longer able to make decisions surrounding their own financial and medical needs, and the proper documents are not in place allowing for another individual to make those decisions, it may be necessary to seek guardianship over them. In North Carolina, guardianship occurs when a person seeks court approval to legally act on another’s behalf. If the probate court determines that an individual, referred to as a ward, suffers from a condition that incapacitates them, a guardian will be appointed with the authority to make decisions for them.

Guardianship Types

The court has the ability to appoint the following 3 different types of guardianships depending on the circumstances involved:

  • Guardian of the Person - A guardian of the person will be appointed to make decisions pertaining to a ward’s care and custody, including decisions concerning their medical and living situation.
  • Guardian of the Estate - A guardian of the estate is responsible for decisions surrounding the ward's finances and business affairs, which will frequently include management of funds and payments of debts.
  • General Guardian - A general guardian is appointed to handle decisions that a guardian of the person and guardian of the estate would be responsible for. If necessary, the court may limit some of the general guardian’s power and responsibility.

Guardian Responsibilities in North Carolina

The court may appoint an adult individual, corporation, or neutral public agent to act as a guardian. In addition, the court has the ability to appoint more than one guardian for a ward, should it be necessary. Being appointed as a guardian of another person is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Therefore, it is essential that a guardian always acts in the ward's best interest and care for them as best they can. For general guardians, or guardians of the estate they are also tasked with prudently managing the ward's financial affairs to provide necessary resources to the ward.

In addition, all guardians must maintain detailed records surrounding the decisions made about the ward's care and expenses. The court will require an annual report and an inventory accounting to be filed to enable them to review the situation and ensure that the ward is being properly looked after and not being taken advantage of.

North Carolina’s Guardianship Qualification Process

The process to be qualified as a guardian is never easy but when proper advance planning has not been done, guardianships become necessary to protect loved ones. Trying to navigate the guardianship process alone can present numerous challenges that often result in costly delays. We understand that emotions run high in guardianship proceedings and the qualification process is just as hard on the potential guardian as it is on the ward who can no longer make their own decisions. The general process for obtaining a guardianship includes the following:

  • The first step is to petition the court in the county where the ward resides. This will include providing all relevant details in the application about the ward and the ward’s current mental status, along with an inventory of the ward’s property that will be involved.
  • The guardian must take an oath stating they will fulfill their guardianship duties to the best of their ability and in accordance with the law for the benefit of the ward.
  • The clerk of court will set a bond amount that a guardian must post with the court. The amount is dependent on the nature and complexity of the situation, however, in some circumstances, it is possible for the clerk to reduce the required bond.
  • The guardianship will be approved by the clerk, through an order and then the clerk will issue letters that act as legal proof of the guardianship and permit the guardian to make decisions on behalf of the ward.

Whether you need an immediate appointment of a guardian, assistance with a guardianship already in place, or just more information about guardianships we are here to help.

Our attorneys at North Carolina Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law offer a full spectrum of legal services surrounding estate planning, including guardianship issues and can help you with the qualification of a guardian, review of an existing guardianship, filing the required guardianship inventory and accounting for the court, or general advice concerning major decisions for the ward. Contact us for a confidential consultation at 704-248-6325 or complete our online form here.


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