Georgia law is intentional in protecting the dignity of wards, and it takes seriously the responsibility of guardians. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities explains the guardian-ward relationship, which often applies to aging adults and those with mental or physical handicaps. A court can appoint a guardian in response to a petition claiming that an individual is not capable of making informed decisions. In other cases, a court appoints a guardian of its own volition to care for an incapacitated adult.
Once a court places a guardian, he or she takes reasonable responsibility to care for the ward. But not every guardian has the ward’s best interest at heart. Thankfully, Georgia law contains measures to remove a guardian when necessary.
Limited power of guardians
Guardians have limited power and the legal obligation to give a ward as much independence as possible, communicating regularly with the ward to determine his or her wishes. They cannot combine the ward’s finances with their own, for example, and they must submit regular reports to a court showing evidence of quality care. Georgia law carefully outlines measures to ensure that guardians treat their wards with dignity and respect.
Guardians who misuse their wards breach a fiduciary duty, and courts often treat this severely. Wards generally cannot take legal action against someone while under guardianship, but they can take legal action against a guardian. To do this, they would file a claim in probate court, and the court would conduct an inquiry into the situation.
A judge may legally compel the guardian to change negative behavior, to recover damages, to relinquish the position or a combination of these measures. Third parties also have the right to petition a court on behalf of a ward if they suspect misuse. Similarly, a court can remove a guardian simply because the ward has recovered the capacity to function independently.
Two-year waiting period
Once a court conducts an inquiry into such a petition, it will make a determination. If the judge determines that the ward needs continued guardianship and that there was no mistreatment, there is typically a two-year waiting period before the ward or third party can petition the court again. A court can make an exception if a significant change occurs within that time, but it is important to carefully consider petitions and present reasonable evidence of any mistreatment.