Legal English: “Guardian”

A “guardian” (Pronunciation: GAR (rhymes with "car")-dee-in; Origin: French) or “legal guardian” is one who has the ability to care for and manage the affairs of a ward. The arrangement is usually set up because the ward is young, disabled, or otherwise hindered in or incapable of properly managing his or her own affairs.

Here are some example sentences that use the phrase:

  • “This contract is probably voidable, given that you entered into it with someone who is only 11 years old. Had you gotten the guardian involved, you might have been able to produce a binding document.”
  • “Your honor, in accordance with the request I filed earlier this morning, I’m attempting to appear as Ms. Gordon’s guardian in this matter. She recently suffered a stroke and does not at the moment have capacity to make decisions regarding the suit.”
  • “Once the adoption is finalized, the child will have a proper legal guardian and it is our hope that her life will begin to stabilize.”

There are several types of guardians, and their powers vary depending on the circumstances for their appointment. A general guardian may have authority over all of the affairs of the ward, including where the ward lives and how the ward’s assets are disposed of. A special guardian, on the other hand, only has authority over a limited topic. For example, a special guardian may be appointed to represent a ward in connection with the sale of a business that the ward has inherited, but will not have physical authority or custody of the ward.

In addition, a guardian ad litem is a guardian appointed in connection with a particular matter before the court. Most often, these one-time guardians are seen in cases where a minor is removed from his or her home due to negative living circumstances, and the parents are not present or fit to make decisions regarding the child’s best interests.

For additional legal english terms and definitions, visit our Legal English category page. Washington University School of Law also offers a legal english course, for those who would like to take their learning further.