Public Guardian

The Kentucky Division of Guardianship has the responsibility for administering public guardian duties.When an adult is determined by the Court, after a thorough examination of this person's ability to care for his health and welfare and a trial by jury, to be legally disabled, a judge has the duty to appoint a guardian. Typically the Judge will appoint a family member or friend to take on this responsibility. However, in the instance that there is no one willing or able to serve in this capacity, the Judge will appoint the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as the state or public guardian of the ward.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services is  home to the Department for Aging and Independent Living. The Division of Guardianship has the responsibility for administering public guardian duties. This division, with offices throughout Kentucky, has employees who are specialists in public guardianship who are able to provide the guidance and services necessary to protect the welfare of the individual under public guardianship.

Chapter 387 of Kentucky Revised Statutes provides process and responsibilities for a guardian, regardless of whether or not this responsibility has been designated to a public guardian. Based upon the extent of the individual's disability, there are several categories of protection: 

  • Full Guardianship/Full Conservator – The Cabinet has responsibility for the personal and financial needs of the ward. This level is deemed when it has been determined that the individual is fully disabled. All personal and financial rights are removed from the disabled with the possible exception of the right to vote. The decision on retaining or surrendering the right to vote is made by the judge.
  • Personal Guardianship – The court determines that the ward is fully disabled in his/her ability to make sound decisions regarding personal affairs. The Public Guardian can only make decisions for personal affairs.
  • Conservator – Based on the decision of limited disability in the court hearing, the public guardian is limited to making decisions for the financial or fiduciary affairs of the ward.
  • Limited Guardian – A limited public guardian is named when partial disability has been determined and the jury finds that the person is capable of managing some decisions while needing help with others. The court will determine which civil rights are retained by the person. Some of the issues that may be considered include the right to vote, drive a car, make medical decisions and determine where to live.
  • Limited Conservator – A Limited Conservator may be named if the ward only needs assistance with managing financial affairs.  The court will also decide whether or not the ward can retain civil rights pertaining to selling property and signing legal documents (signing checks, marriage license and wills).

The Public Guardian is required to inventory the ward's property, maintain financial records of how the ward's money is being spent and file an annual report to the court.

The Kentucky Guardianship Association at www.kyguardianship.org is a nonprofit membership organization committed to improving adult guardianship in Kentucky.  It is a great ongoing resource for families, social workers and individuals interested in becoming guardians. Resources include guardian law training for social workers, attorneys and persons who have been appointed by the court to serve as a guardian. Watch our video with its easy-to-understand overview of Kentucky guardianship law. Our meetings and trainings assist our membership with understanding Kentucky guardianship law and provide continuing education for the various disciplines that have a role in guardianship.