Decision-making authority

An adult who has lost the capacity to make decisions needs support. A court order is needed for someone to help the adult by acting as:

  • an adult guardian for their personal decisions
  • an adult trustee for their financial decisions
  • both guardian and trustee for all their decisions

When you become a guardian, the court gives you legal authority to make personal decisions for them.

Who needs a guardian

Adults who need a guardian

  • are 18 years of age or older
  • have had a capacity assessment completed that indicates they lack capacity to make personal decisions
  • less intrusive and less restrictive options are not likely to be effective
  • may be vulnerable because of a permanent or temporary disability or illness
  • don’t have a personal directive and need someone to make personal decisions for them

Minors who will need a guardian

  • will be 18 years old in the next year
  • will need someone to make their personal decisions after they become an adult

If you want the court order to go into effect when the minor turns 18, you must apply as soon as possible after the minor turns 17.

Just because someone disagrees with an adult’s decisions does not mean they do not have the ability to make their own decisions. If they fully understand the impact of a decision, they’re probably capable of making it.

Types of decisions

Guardians can make personal, non-financial decisions about:

  • healthcare
  • where to live
  • who to associate with
  • participation in educational, vocational and other training
  • participation in social activities
  • employment
  • legal proceedings

Guardians can’t make decisions about:

  • finances
  • organ donation
  • sterilization

Depending on the adult’s needs, a guardian might only be needed for some decisions.

The court decides:

Is guardianship needed

You may want to look into other options for personal decision-making, such as:

Trusteeship

You may also want to consider financial decision-making options, such as:

You can apply to become both a guardian and a trustee at the same time.

How long does it take

To become a guardian, it usually takes 6 months – from the time your paperwork is ready to be submitted to court – before the court makes a decision.

Urgent situation

Call 911 for a situation where someone is at immediate risk of death or physical harm.

If the decision is urgent – an immediate risk of death or serious physical or mental harm – you can apply for an urgent order.

Before you apply, ensure the decision is truly urgent and take into account other considerations by reviewing this document:

Urgent Guardianship and Trustee Orders

To apply for an urgent order:

Step 1: Fill out the forms

You must fill out these forms:

Form 15: Affidavit of Applicant

Form 39: Notice of Application and Hearing

Form 18: Order

Step 2: File your documents

You or your lawyer:

  • submit your forms to the clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench
  • set a hearing date
  • submit the fee, payable to ‘Government of Alberta’ for court processing fees - the clerk of the Court will be able to tell you the amount and how to make payment

The court may appoint a guardian who has the authority to make decisions for up to 90 days. If the adult still requires guardianship decision making, an initial guardianship application will be required.

Is there a cost

There are costs for different parts of this process:

  • legal fees – if you use a lawyer to complete the application
  • capacity assessment – charged by the capacity assessor for the completion of the assessment
  • court filing fees – up to $250 for the court to process your documentation
  • background check fee – for the background check to be completed so the results can be provided to the court with your application

If these costs are a financial hardship for you, contact the OPGT.

Requirements to be a guardian

To be a guardian, you must:

  • be 18 years of age or older
  • consent to being a guardian
  • consider the views and wishes of the adult
  • have a relationship with the adult
  • be available to make decisions
  • not have a conflict with the adult
  • complete a criminal record check and reference checks – following the OPGT’s process

When there’s no one else

If no one is willing or available to help, the OPGT may become the guardian when it’s in the adult’s best interests.

To make a referral to the OPGT, fill out this form:

OPGT Referral (PDF, 389 KB)

Your responsibilities as an adult's guardian

As a guardian, you’re authorized to make decisions for the adult. This means you also have a responsibility to:

  • act in the adult’s best interest
  • be diligent and act in good faith
  • encourage the adult to be as independent as possible
  • act in the least intrusive and restrictive manner (that is effective)
  • inform the adult of important decisions that are made
  • keep a record of the decisions that are made

A guardian has a responsibility to:

  • only access information that has been authorized and is needed for a decision
  • keep personal information about the adult safe from unauthorized access, use or disclosure

Apply to be an adult’s guardian

To be an adult’s guardian – and to ensure you follow the correct process and complete the correct paperwork – you need to think about 3 things:

  1. You need to consider which decisions the adult needs assistance with:
    • personal decisions only (guardianship)
    • personal and financial decisions (guardianship and trusteeship)
  2. You need to decide to apply without a hearing (desk application) or with a hearing:
Without a Hearing (Desk Application) With a Hearing
  • if you don’t expect anyone to disagree with the application
  • not time sensitive
  • you don’t need to appear in court
  • the judge makes a decision based on the paperwork you submit
  • someone might disagree with the application
  • time sensitive
  • you or your lawyer appears in court
  • application is discussed with the judge
  • the judge makes a decision based on the paperwork you submit and the discussion in court
  1. You need to decide to apply for one of these options:
    • guardianship – desk application
    • guardianship and trusteeship – desk application
    • guardianship – with a hearing
    • guardianship and trusteeship – with a hearing

To start the application process

Select the one option below that best meets the adult’s situation:

When a court order is granted

The newly-appointed guardian is legally responsible to provide a copy of the court order to:

  • the adult
  • other interested parties
  • the OPGT

Read the court order carefully to learn:

  • who has been appointed
  • what authority has been granted
  • when the order needs to be reviewed
  • any other provisions

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