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 >  Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Guardian?

A person appointed by the court to make legal, medical, financial, and other decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person.

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What is a Ward?

A person who has had a guardian appointed by the court.

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What is a Conservator?

A person appointed by the court to manage the business, assets, and financial affairs of a person unable to do so. A judicial finding of incapacity is not required for a judge to appoint a conservator, but a judge must find that a person is unable to manage the person's property or affairs effectively for reasons such as mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, confinement, detention by a foreign power, or disappearance and the person has property which will be wasted or dissipated unless proper management is provided.

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What is a Protected Person?

A person who has had a conservator appointed by the court.

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Who is an Incapacitated Person?

One whose ability to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions is impaired to the extent that they lack the ability to provide the essential requirements for their own health and safety. A judge must find that a person meets the legal definition of incapacity to appoint a guardian.

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What is an Advocate?

One who supports, defends or requests on the behalf of another. The intervention may be with client consent or with legal authority to act.

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What's the difference between a Private Guardian, and a Public Guardian?

A private guardian is someone who is not hired by the state to be a guardian. It is generally a family member or close friend who is appointed by the court. It can also be a professional.

A professional guardian is an individual, agency or organization that provides guardianship/conservatorship services to individuals and receives compensation other than reimbursement for out of pocket expenses.

A public guardian is one employed by the state to act as guardian/conservator. Public guardians are employed by the Office of Public Advocacy and are used as last resort when no private person or non-profit organization is available or willing to act in this capacity. Public & professional guardians are legal decision makers & advocates. They do not provide direct services.

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What is the difference between Full, Temporary, Partial, Limited, or Testamentary Guardianship?

A full guardian is one appointed to have total decision-making responsibilities for medical, housing, services, legal, and if a separate conservator has not been appointed, financial areas.

A temporary guardian is one appointed in an emergency situation for an immediate or time-limited period. An example would be an emergency appointment for an immediate life threatening medical decision or a six-month period to assist with a specific decision. Generally a full hearing with court visitor and medical expert reports will be held soon.

A partial or limited guardian is one appointed whose rights, powers, and duties are less than full guardianship and are enumerated by court order.

A guardian by testamentary appointment is one whose appointment was by a will. An example would be when a parent / guardian of a developmentally disabled child indicate in his or her will which other person would be the child's successor guardian. The successor guardian needs to request a Probate Court hearing to get signed Orders.

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What is the difference between an Attorney for the Respondent and a Guardian Ad Litem?

A respondent is the alleged incapacitated person for whom a petition has been filed and their attorney represents the wishes of the respondent as opposed to the best interest of the respondent.

The guardian ad litem (or GAL) is a person appointed by the court to represent the best interests and rights of the ward or respondent in the proceedings. A GAL, generally an attorney, is appointed if the court decides that the respondent cannot determine his own interests because of impaired ability. A GAL's duties end when guardianship proceedings are concluded.

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What's the difference between a Court Expert and a Court Visitor?

The court expert (or medical expert) has expertise regarding the incapacity of the respondent and has evaluated or treated the respondent. For example, the expert in a guardianship case could be the respondent's psychiatrist.

The court visitor is a neutral person trained or experienced in law, medical care, mental health care, pastoral care, education, rehabilitation or social work who is appointed by the court to make a thorough independent investigation and evaluation of all information relevant to the respondent's case. The court visitor makes a recommendation to the court regarding what type of protective appointment, if any, is in the respondent's best interests.

Both an expert and visitor are appointed in guardianship cases. Both submit a report and testify or are available to testify at the hearing.

No finding of incapacity is required for a conservatorship but a visitor may still be appointed.

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What is meant by Direct Services?

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

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What are Supportive Services?

A coordinated system of state or community supplied social or health devices designated to help maintain the independence of the individual. May include psychiatric and medical evaluation with case management, visiting nurse, special transportation, house repair, home delivered meals, etc. Services do not originate from a central agency, but are brought together by the individual or agency involved with the case.

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What is Case Management?

Case management is the arranging of direct services for a client.

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What is a Care Coordinator?

An independent or agency person, who arranges for services for the aged, adult physically disabled, intellectually or developmentally disabled, or children with medically complex conditions.

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What are Protective Services?

A term commonly used to describe both support services provided to those in need with their consent, and legally enforced guardianship/conservatorship services that intervene in a person's life without their consent, in response to physical, emotional and financial abuse or neglect.

The State of Alaska, Adult Protective Services, investigates and attempts to resolve abuse or neglect. (Anchorage 907-269-3666).

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What is Assisted Living?

Residential living that focuses on maximizing residents' quality of life by structuring care, services and environment to enhance autonomy, dignity and the right to age in place. Assisted living generally provides: three meals; 24 hour staff oversight and availability; housekeeping and laundry; assistance with eating, bathing, toileting, and walking; transportation or arranging transportation; medication management; social and recreational activities. The Division of Senior Services can provide a list of licensed homes in Alaska (907-269-3666) and out of state information is available from the National Eldercare Locator Service 1-800-677-1116.

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What are Chore Services?

Chore services include housekeeping, and other necessary assistance to maintain the home in a clean, sanitary and safe condition.

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What is Respite Care?

Respite care provides relief for the caregiver from caregiving duties.

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Who can be a Petitioner?

Anyone with a legitimate interest in a person that can request the court appoint a guardian or conservator for that person. The Petition for Guardian/Conservator identifies the circumstances of the respondent's condition and identifies individuals who know the respondent and may be interested in the respondent's welfare. The petition formally sets the guardianship process in motion in court. The petitioner is responsible for proving to the court that a protective appointment is warranted.

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Who is a Respondent?

A respondent is the person who has had a petition filled against them. In guardianship, this is the alleged incapacitated person.

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What is Notice?

Notice is providing information to the parties in the case about an issue or event in the case, usually the time and date of a hearing. Court rules provide specific instructions about how and when notice is provided.

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Who are the Interested Parties in a Case?

Those include attorneys, court visitor, heirs, children, creditors, beneficiaries, devises, and any other having a right in or claim against the estate of a ward.

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What are Pro Bono and Pro Per?

Pro bono means "for good." A pro bono attorney works on behalf of a client without charge. Pro per means doing legal work for oneself without the assistance of an attorney.

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What does Stipulate Mean in Court?

Parties "stipulate" or agree to a fact or to resolve an issue or problem in a case.

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What is Aid to Disabled Adults?

The State's Division of Public Assistance provides funds to the elderly, blind or disabled meeting income, assets and Social Security requirements.

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What is Interim Assistance?

When a guardian applies for SSI and the client has no other income, the guardian may apply for this aid from Alaska Division of Public Assistance while a decision is being made by Social Security. If eligible, they will receive a certain amount of money per month. This must be repaid if approved for social security benefits.

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What is Social Security Annuities (SSA)?

SSA is a retirement and disability insurance for American workers. It may be available for spouse or children, if the employee is disabled or deceased.

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What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Administered by the Social Security office, this benefit is based on disability, income, and resources. A person could be eligible for both SSA and SSI.

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What is a Representative Payee?

The Social Security Administration can require a "rep payee" for many SSA and SSI clients. This is another person or agency that will receive the client's social security funds and is responsible for using them for the client's needs.

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What is a Burial Trust Fund?

An account established for burial purposes, usually held by a bank or funeral home.

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How does a Power of Attorney differ from a Guardianship?

A Power of Attorney is power granted to an attorney-in-fact (another individual) to conduct any business that a person could do himself, such as banking, real estate, taxes, business transactions, or any other issue. Powers of attorney are generally time-limited. The client must be capacitated and there is no court oversight. A power of attorney may be withdrawn at any time by the person who has granted the authority. The court is not involved. A guardianship occurs when the client can not make decision for himself due to legal incapacity and the court has reviewed the person's situation after a legal process where the person's rights are protected. A guardianship generally supersedes a POA. A person may agree to a guardian or it may be ordered over a person's objection after the judicial process is completed.

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What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

When a person executes a POA, which will become or remain effective in the event the client later becomes disabled. It may include conservator powers and authority to make medical decisions.

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What is an Advance Directive?

A document that states exactly what action should be taken on the person's behalf in the event of an incapacity or terminal illness.

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What is a 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 state, 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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