guardian and ward, in law. A guardian is someone who by appointment or by relationship has the care of a person or that person's property, or both. The protected individual, known as the ward, is considered legally incapable of acting for himself or herself; examples are a child (see infancy) or an individual suffering from a serious mental illness. The question of guardianship most commonly arises in relation to children, where there is parental abuse, neglect, drug dependency, or divorce (in which case reposing custody in one parent or the other generally becomes the issue). In Anglo-American law, the three principal classes of guardianship over children are testamentary, by nature, and by judicial appointment. In the first, statutes give parents the right to appoint a guardian by will. Guardianship by nature is the natural guardianship arising out of the relation of parent and child. A guardian by judicial appointment is one named by a court with jurisdiction over such relations. When no testamentary guardian has been appointed by the will of a deceased parent, a court may appoint a guardian for the children. The selection of a guardian, if not made by the parent, is generally at the discretion of the ward if over a certain age, but may be set aside if the court considers the guardian to be an imprudent choice. A guardian is held to the standards of a fiduciary in relations with the ward.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.