top of page


02. Guardianship & Conservatorship

Guardianships and Conservatorships are legal processes designed to protect the vulnerable. 


A guardian can be appointed for a minor child or an incapacitated adult.  Decision-making authority can be given in the areas of residential, educational, legal, vocational, financial matters, and medical treatment.


When is it appropriate to seek a guardianship over an adult?​

There are many situations when it is appropriate to seek guardianship of an adult.  Quite often guardianships are sought when a minor child with developmental disabilities turns 18. Guardianships are also sought for individuals struggling with dementia or other mental and physical disabilities.  

What is required to obtain a guardianship of an adult?

You need to proved that the adult is incapacitated and unable to safely make their own decisions. 

Does a person need to be related to an adult to be appointed as their guardian?

No.  However, there are priorities in the appointment of a guardian.  If more than one person is seeking guardianship over the same person, then relatives would have priority for an appointment over a non-relative. 

Is a guardianship permanent?

No.   A guardianship can always be modified and/or terminated with a change in circumstances.  Further, guardianships over minors are subject to court review every one to three years and guardianships over adults are subject to court review every five years. 


A conservator is appointed when the Court determines an individual is unable to handle their own money and property.


Do you have to prove incapacity to obtain conservatorship of an adult?​

No, you do not.  A conservator can be appointed for reasons such as mental or physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs or alcohol, or confinement. 

Why would a conservatorship of a minor be necessary?

Quite often, a conservatorship of a minor is sought when the minor receives a large life insurance payout or court settlement.   

Guardian ad Litem

A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney who is appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of the proposed Ward in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding.  A Guardian ad Litem can also be appointed to represent the best interests of minor children in a custody or deprivation proceeding. 


What is the difference between having a Guardian ad Litem appointed by the Court for a child or adult different than hiring an attorney to represent them?​

An attorney hired to represent an individual will present a case to the Court and advocate for the client based upon their wishes.  A Guardian ad Litem appointed by the Court will present a case to the Court and advocate for the client based upon their best interests. 

Is a Guardian ad Litem required in a guardianship proceeding?

Yes, a Guardian ad Litem is required in every guardianship proceeding.  However, in cases that are brought in Juvenile Court involving deprivation of a child, a lay Guardian ad Litem rather than an attorney Guardian ad Litem may be appointed.   

Request a Consultation

Are you dealing with a complex legal issue? Let Schull Law help you. Contact us online with your questions and concerns or call us today at  to schedule your consultation. From our main office in Grand Forks, we serve clients throughout North Dakota and in western Minnesota.

bottom of page