As adults, we have the right to manage our own affairs and make important decisions affecting our lives. For instance, we can drive a car, vote, and decide where to live and how to raise our children. When an individual's condition renders them physically or mentally incapacitated, the appointment of a guardian is sometimes necessary to protect that individual and help handle certain aspects of his or her life.
Under South Carolina Law, for a person to be declared incapacitated, a court must find that the individual cannot understand and respond to information, or make or communicate decisions to meet the necessary requirements for his or her physical health, safety or self-care, or to manage his or her property or financial affairs.
A person may become incapacitated for several reasons. Common situations and conditions that may lead to incapacity are mental illness, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, autism and chronic drug or alcohol abuse. There is not a complete list and every individual is affected by these diseases and conditions differently. Just because an individual has one of these conditions does not necessarily mean that they are legally incapacitated or require a guardian.
There is a difference between being incapacitated and having poor judgment and making bad decisions. Someone who is incapacitated is unable to make a responsible decision. A person with poor judgment has the ability to make a responsible decision, but choose not to. Because it can be difficult to tell the difference, the probate court relies on the opinions of medical professionals in determining whether someone is incapacitated.