Elder Guardianship Kaleidoscope: A Comparative Perspective

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Historically the frail elderly, as well as other weak populations who are unable to care for themselves, have been subject to legal proceedings known as guardianship. Despite changes and reforms, adult guardianship law has survived as a fundamental legal institution aimed to protect the frail elderly as well as other incompetent adults. However, concerns around guardianship over the elderly have been on the legal agenda in various countries since the 1960s. Since then, a broad wave of legal reform has swept the developed world in this field of law. This study attempts to compare different adult guardianship law reforms from an international and comparative perspective. For this purpose, Maryland (U.S.A.), Sweden, Germany, Japan, and Israel, were chosen as base for comparison. Each jurisdiction was examined in three fields: general background of its socio-legal system; the narrow dimension of its adult guardianship law, including some historical background and modern developments; and its legal alternatives to guardianship. The findings of the legal comparison reveal that this field of law is currently characterized by innovation and originality on the one hand, and on the other hand by close links to culture and legal tradition. While all the jurisdictions involved strive to reform guardianship law in a way that promotes the autonomy and independence of the elderly population, the means and tools that were actually adopted were different and diverse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-398
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003


  • Elder Law
  • Ageing
  • Guardianship and Long-Term Care
  • Comparative Law
  • Seniors' Rights


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