Ward of the State

When an individual is a ward of the state, the Cabinet works to provide the needed care and protection for the ward.The Commonwealth of Kentucky has created a legal system of guardianship and conservatorship that provides a range of options for adults who are determined to be disabled. Any of the following situations can be grounds for disability determination for an adult who:

  • is dealing with deteriorating physical health and not taking care of himself;
  • is losing mental capacity to function well;
  • is not functioning well socially;
  • is no longer capable of managing their financial affairs, placing them at serious risk of financial disaster and/or financial exploitation.

Kentucky Revised Statutes, Chapter 387 proscribes the legal process which protection requires, including a hearing before a 6-person jury during which evidence is presented to demonstrate that the  adult is legally disabled. An evaluation is done by an Interdisciplinary Team consisting of a physician who will do the medical evaluation, a psychologist who will assess mental capacity and a social worker who will review the Respondent's social environment and ability to function. When the jury determines that an adult is disabled and to what extent (full or partial) this person is disabled, the judge will immediately make an appointment of a guardian or conservator.

From time to time there are adults for whom there is no appropriate family member or friend willing or capable to serve as a guardian or conservator. In this circumstance the court may appoint the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services through its Division for Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) to act as the guardian or conservator. The individual becomes a “ward” of the state and the Cabinet works to provide the needed care and protection for the ward. Based upon the level of disability that the jury finds, there are several options available to provide protection for the ward:

  • Full Guardianship/Full Conservator – The Cabinet (the Public Guardian or Conservator) has responsibility for the personal and financial needs of the ward of the state. This level is deemed when it has been determined that the ward is fully disabled. All personal and financial rights are removed from the ward 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 of the state 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 ward of the state 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 of the state 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 (KGA) is a nonprofit organization committed to improving adult guardianship in Kentucky. When you visit our website at www.kyguardianship.org, watch our video with its easy-to-understand overview of Kentucky guardianship law. We encourage you to download our recently released handbook,  the Kentucky Guardianship Manual, that details the guardianship process in Kentucky from start to finish. KGA 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.  Protecting the quality of life of your loved one involves many factors and KGA is a great resource for information on guardianship and understanding when becoming a ward of the state may in some instances be the best solution.