State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Division of Office of Public Advocacy

Alaska Department of Administration, Office of Public Advocacy
Administration >  Office of Public Advocacy >  Programs >  Family Guardianship >  Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

The following page contains definitions for common guardianship terms. Please select a term from the drop-down list below to view its definition.

Adult Protective Services:

Investigates and resolves reports of alleged psychological and physical abuse, neglect, self neglect, or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults age eighteen and up. Toll free number: 1-800-478-9996. See Division of Senior Services.

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Advance Directive:

A document stating exactly which measures to be followed in the event of an incapacity or terminal illness.

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Aid to Disabled Adults:

Entitlement benefits for the elderly, the blind and the disabled administered by the Division of Public Assistance.

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Artificial Life Support Systems:

The replacement of natural vital functions, such as breathing, feeding, and drinking, by medical interventions (for example, respirators, tubal intravenous feeding).

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Assets:

The estate and financial affairs. May include house and land, car, snowmachines, furniture, cash, Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, Native Dividends and Land, investment stocks and bonds, valuables, art, furs, jewelry, Native art and crafts.

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Attorney for Respondent:

One who represents the wishes of the respondent as opposed to best interests.

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Best Interest:

A decision-making standard that means a course of action which maximizes what is best for a ward and which includes consideration of the least intrusive, most normalizing, and least restrictive course of action possible given the needs of the ward.

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Burial Trust Fund:

Account established for burial purposes, usually held by a bank. If the person is receiving Public Assistance and SSI, the principal cannot exceed $1500 but the interest may be exempt.

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Case Management:

Supervisory services usually originate in a care facility or health unit that closely monitors the physical and mental progress of a client.

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Community Spouse:

The spouse who remains in the community when a Medicaid applicant or recipient is institutionalized in a long-term care facility.

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Conservator:

Is a person appointed by the court to manage only the property and the finances of an incapacitated person or minor.

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Court Visitor:

A neutral person trained or experienced in law, medicine or medical health care, education, rehabilitation, pastoral care, or social work, etc. who is appointed by the court to make a through investigation, evaluation, and recommendation of all information relevant to the respondent's case. The court visitor does not represent any other party in a protective proceeding and makes a recommendation to the judge as to the type of protective appointment that is least restrictive and in the respondent's best interests.

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Death:

Although the guardianship ceases at the death of a ward, the Public Administrator wants the guardian to finalize the work. In cases where there is less than $15,000, after 30 days, file a probate waiver and pay the bills and disburse the money to the heirs. This should be filed with the Probate court in the Final Report to the guardianship case. If the person has over $15,000 estate value, you will need to have an attorney probate the will. This report can be filed in the Guardianship case as well as in the Estate case.

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Direct Services:

Medical and nursing care, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological therapy, counseling, residential services, legal representation, recreational therapy, socialization, job training and other similar services.

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Division of Public Assistance:

State agency who provides funds to eligible low income and limited resource individuals.

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Division of Senior Services:

State agency responsible for investigating complaints for adults and license assisted living homes.

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Durable Power of Attorney:

Exists when a person executes a POA which will become or remain effective in the event the principle later becomes disabled; includes conservator powers and authority to make medical decisions when a Living Will or Advanced Directive is included.

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Durable Power of Attorney for Health-Care Decisions:

A durable power of attorney (POA) by which the principal may choose an agent to make health-care decisions after the principal has become incapacitated and is unable to make those decisions.

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Expert:

Someone who has treated or evaluated the respondent and has expertise in the medical area that is cause of the respondent's incapacity.  Generally the expert is a medical doctor.

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Extraordinary Medical Situations:

Including abortion, removal of life support, sterilization, experimental treatment and other controversial medical issues.

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Guardian:

Is a person appointed by the court to protect the rights and manage the affairs of an incapacitated person or minor.

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Guardian Ad Litem:

Individual appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the ward or respondent in the proceedings. A GAL is appointed if the court decides that the respondent cannot determine his own interests because of impaired ability. Duties end when guardianship proceedings conclude.

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Incapacity:

A person whose ability to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions is impaired to the extent that the person lacks the ability to provide or arrange for the essential requirements for the person's physical health or safety without court-ordered assistance. Some causes could be developmental disabilities, mental retardation, mental illness, age-related dementias, brain damage, substance abuse, or AIDS.

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Interested Parties:

Includes heirs, devises, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries and any others having a right in, or claims against, the estate of a ward or protected person which may be affected by the proceedings.

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Irrevocable Trust:

When the settlor transfers title of the trust proceeds to the trustee and reserves no right to cancel, alter, or abolish the trust.

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Least Restrictive:

A mechanism, course of action, or environment which allows the ward to live, learn and work in a setting which places as few limits as possible on the ward's rights and personal freedoms as is appropriate to meet the needs of the ward.

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Limited / Partial Guardianship:

One who has special powers conferred by the court order that states explicitly what those powers are.

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Living Will:

A document by which an individual, while competent, may specify that in the event there is no reasonable expectation that he/she will recover from a terminal illness or vegetative condition, no extraordinary or heroic measures are to be used to prolong the act of dying; is only employed to prevent the use of life sustaining procedures.

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Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

An independent official charged with investigation and resolving complaints made by or on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. Toll free number: 1-800-730-6393.

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Notice:

In the context of court proceedings, notice is official information about the time and date of court hearing. Notice may be given by the court or one of the parties. Court rules govern when and how official notice must be given to parties to a case.

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Office of Public Advocacy:

The state agency which provides the following services: respondent's attorney, visitor, expert, public guardian, family guardian coordinator, and guardian ad litem. Some services are provided by OPA staff and others by contractors.

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Per Se:

By self; legal work for oneself without benefit of counsel.

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Petitioner:

The person who files a petition with the court for guardianship or conservatorship.

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Power of Attorney:

Power granted to the attorney or attorney-in-fact to conduct any business which the principal could do himself, i.e. banking, real estate, stock and other business transactions, tax issues, claims, running the principal's business, etc.

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Pro Bono:

For good; legal work done by an attorney without charge.

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Pro Per:

Legal work done by a person without the assistance of an attorney.

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Professional Guardian:

An individual, agency, or organization that provides guardianship/conservatorship services to individuals and receives compensation other than reimbursement for out of pocket expenses; or, acts at the direction of an entity that receives funding or compensation for services provided as a guardian. May be public or private.

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Protected Person:

Is a minor or individual for whom a conservator has been appointed or is under another type of protective order. 

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Public Guardian:

One employed by the state to act as a guardian/conservator; used as a last resort when no private person or agency is available or able to act in this capacity.

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Respondent:

The alleged incapacitated person who has had a petition filed against them.

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Representative Payee:

Person who receives federal funds on behalf of another if the recipient is unable to manage their own finances.

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Social Services:

Services provided to meet social needs, such as representative payee, case management, money management, and other similar services.

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Social Security Administration:

The federal agency issuing benefits to individuals for retirement or disability; includes benefits to survivors. SSA-retirement; SSI & SSDI-disability.

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Spend Down:

The process by which an applicant for Medicaid benefits becomes or remains eligible by using up financial resources that are in excess of the limits set up by the Medicaid program.

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Substituted Judgement:

The standard that guides the decision making of the guardian. Substituted judgement entails making the decision the guardian believes the ward would make based on the ward's previously expressed preferences.

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Supportive Services:

A coordinated system of state or community supplied social or health services designed to help maintain the independence of the individual; included may be homemaker visits, psychiatric and medical evaluation with case management, visiting nurse, special transportation, house repair, home delivered meals, etc. Does not emanate from a central agency; services are brought together by the individual or agency involved with the case.

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Stipulate:

An agreement; if all parties "stipulate" to a point or issue it becomes a fact or actuality; an accord.

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Testamentary Appointment:

An appointment of a guardian, conservator or power of attorney made by a will.

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Veterans' Administration:

Federal agency distributing benefits to veterans of the military and their dependents.

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Visitor:

A neutral person trained or experienced in law, medicine or medical health care, education, rehabilitation, pastoral care, or social work, etc. who is appointed by the court to make a through investigation, evaluation, and recommendation of all information relevant to the respondent's case. The court visitor does not represent any other party in a protective proceeding and makes a recommendation to the judge as to the type of protective appointment that is least restrictive and in the respondent's best interests.

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Ward:

Is the person the court has deemed in need of protection be it due to incapacity or being a minor.

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Wills:

A person who is found to be incapacitated can still give legal direction for completing a will. It is better to have the judge state this at a hearing before proceeding. A person who has been found by the court to be incompetent can not instruct an attorney to process a will.

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