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American Journal of Legal History

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Guardianship is among the least-noticed, least-discussed institutions of the working legal system. For the most part, guardianship is an arrangement that concerns minors who come into a bit of property, or (at times) a lot of it. Guardianship is also an arrangement for managing the affairs of those deemed insane or incompetent. In guardianship proceedings, courts (exercising the parens patriae power of the state) appoint "substitute parents" for "wards" who are insane, incompetent, or simply too young, and who have no one to care for them or their property. Like conservators, trustees, executors, and administrators of estates, guardians are fiduciaries to their wards.