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Adult Guardianship

What is a Guardianship of an Adult?

A guardianship of an adult is a court process where a North Dakota state district court judge or judicial referee decides that an adult (18 years or older) is incapacitated to the point they’re unable to care for themselves responsibly or their incapacity endangers their health or safety.

If the judge or judicial referee decides, based on the evidence presented, that the adult is incapacitated, a guardian is appointed to make medical, legal, residential, educational, vocational, and some financial decisions for the adult.  After a guardian is appointed, the adult is referred to as the Ward.

There are three types of guardianships of adults:

  • Emergency guardianship, which can last no more than 90 days. An emergency guardianship can be either full or limited.
  • Full guardianship, which lasts until the guardianship is no longer necessary. Full guardianship gives the guardian authority to make all personal decisions for the Ward.
  • Limited guardianship, which lasts until the guardianship is no longer necessary. Limited guardianship allows the Ward to make the personal decisions they remain able to make, so the guardian only has authority to make personal decisions in areas the Ward is unable.

Less Restrictive Options to Guardianship of an Adult

The appointment of a guardian severely limits or completely removes the right of an adult or make their own personal decisions.  Before petitioning for guardianship, consider other, less restrictive options.

Less restrictive options to guardianship of an adult include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

North Dakota Guardian Establishment Program **Apply BEFORE Petitioning for a Guardianship

The North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services operates the Guardianship Establishment Program. This is a state-funded program that can provide financial assistance to people who are petitioning for guardianship of an incapacitated adult. You MUST complete the application BEFORE petitioning the Court for guardianship.

Adult & Aging Services Program

The application for this program is found here. You may contact the Adult & Aging Services Guardianship Establishment Program at (701) 328-4613 and (See Guardianship Establishment Funds Protocol.) 

Developmental Disabilities Program

The application for this program is found here. You may contact the Developmental Disabilities Guardianship Establishment Program at (701) 328-8930 or (See DD Guardianship Establishment Funds Protocol.) 

The application MUST be submitted to the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services. The address is located on the last page of the application. DON’T file the application with a North Dakota state district court. The court can’t take your application.

North Dakota Court System Informational Videos

Videos are available on topics such as Adult Guardianship Training, Mental Health Decision Making, Alternatives to Guardianship, and New Guardian Duties.

Go to to watch the videos.

Some of the trainings require you to create a login and password so you’ll receive a participation certificate.

Guardian Responsibilities, Qualifications and Training Requirements, and Payment Information

Learn how to identify when a guardianship is necessary, the qualification and training requirements for a guardian of an adult, the responsibilities of a guardian, and when a guardian may be paid for their services.

Requests Related to Attending Guardianship Hearings

Before a North Dakota state district court can appoint a guardian, at least one court hearings is required. After a guardian is appointed, more court hearings may be necessary, depending on the requirements of each individual guardianship.

Generally, the guardian, or guardians, and the adult subject to the guardianship are all required to attend guardianship hearings in person at the courthouse.

However, the guardian, or the person requesting to become the guardian, may use the following form sets to ask to have the hearing held by reliable electronic means instead of in person, to have any of the parties attend the in person hearing remotely, to hold the hearing somewhere other than the courthouse, or to allow the adult subject to the guardianship not to attend the hearing at all.

Emergency Adult Guardianship

A North Dakota state district court may appoint an emergency guardian of an adult if the court finds that using the non-emergency guardianship appointment process is likely to result in substantial harm to the adult’s health, safety, or welfare, and that no other person appears to have authority and willingness to act in the circumstances.  Emergency guardianships can last no more than 90 days.

If the emergency relates to mental illness or substance abuse issues, you may wish to review the information on the Mental Health Commitment process.  Please note that a state’s attorney or a private attorney must approve the mental health commitment petition before the petition can be filed with the court.

Emergency Adult Guardianship (Appointment of emergency guardian AFTER required court hearing)

Ex-Parte Emergency Adult Guardianship (Appointment of emergency guardian BEFORE required court hearing)

Establishing Adult Guardianship

Any person interested in the welfare of an allegedly incapacitated adult may petition for the appointment of a guardian.  These forms and instructions cover the basic procedure for petitioning a North Dakota state district court to establish a guardianship over an adult.

After Adult Guardianships are Established

Following are a variety of forms and instructions for many common requirements and requests that occur after a North Dakota state district court has established a guardianship and appointed a guardian.

Adult Guardianship 5-year Reviews

Guardianships of adults must be reviewed every 5 years by the North Dakota State District Court.  The Court holds a hearing to decide whether the guardianship remains in place without changes, remains in place with changes, or terminates (ends).

Transfer Guardianship/Conservatorship

General-Use Checklists and Forms

Forms aren’t available for every legal issue, circumstance, or procedure in guardianship of adult cases. If you don’t find a form on this webpage, the form isn’t available through the North Dakota Legal Self Help Center.

If a form isn’t available and you need to create your own legal documents, you may find the following general-use checklists and forms useful as a starting point.

Selected Statutes (Laws) & Rules

Following are legal research starting points related to adult guardianships. You may need to conduct additional legal research into your legal issue.  See the Legal Research Section of this website.

Other Resources

Following are other resources related to adult guardianship proceedings that may be of interest.

The information provided on and obtained from this site does not constitute the official record of the Court. This information is provided as a service to the general public. Any user of this information is hereby advised that it is being provided "as is". The information provided may be subject to errors or omissions. Visitors to this site agree that the Court is not liable for errors or omissions of any of the information provided.

If you have a question relating to a case that is already filed please contact the clerk of court for the county.