Ward Law and Legal Definition

A ward is a person, usually a minor or incompetent, who has a guardian appointed by the court to care for and take responsibility for that person. A governmental agency may take temporary custody of a minor for his/her protection and care if the child is suffering from parental neglect or abuse, or has been in trouble with the law. Such a person is a "ward of the court".

A person caring for a ward is called a guardian. A guardianship is an involuntary trust relationship in which one party, called a guardian, acts for an individual called the ward. The law regards the ward as unable to make informed decisions and incapable of managing his or her own person and/or affairs. Local laws vary, but generally, the prospective ward has the right to be present at the guardianship hearing, to contest any application for guardianship, to have a record of the hearing taken, to have a friend or family member present at the hearing, and to be represented by an attorney. A prospective incompetent ward has the additional right to present evidence of a less restrictive alternative, and if indigent and requested, to have an attorney and independent expert appointed at court expense.

Laws vary by state, but the state may have broad powers to make decisions on behalf of its wards. For example, the Kentucky Supreme Court determined that the “Kentucky Living Will Directive Act” constitutionally permits the Commonwealth to authorize the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment from an incompetent ward of the state without any evidence of the ward’s desires regarding such treatment.