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Programs & Services

Advance care planning, like making a living will or creating a durable power of attorney, can help ensure your wishes are honored and avoid the possibility of having family members disagree about medical decisions on your behalf.

For Iowans who are not capable of making their own decisions about legal, financial, or health care matters, the Office of Public Guardian (formerly known as the Office of Substitute Decision Maker) strives to fill that gap.

Established in Iowa Code (Chapter 231E), the Office of Public Guardian may act as an individual's guardian, conservator, or representative payee. The mission of the Office of Public Guardian is to preserve individual independence through a person-centered process by: 

  • Providing information about guardianship, conservatorship, and less restrictive alternatives for supporting older adults and adults with disabilities;
  • Providing education and resources for guardians and conservators; and
  • Providing guardianship and conservatorship services in the least restrictive manner.

The Office of Public Guardian will only be appointed by the court as the guardian or conservator of last resort if there is no one else who could serve as a guardian or conservator and the person's needs cannot be met with less restrictive alternatives than guardianship or conservatorship.


To be eligible for public guardianship services, an individual must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Is a resident of Iowa age 18 or older;
  • Meets the legal standard for appointment of a guardian or conservator;
  • Has needs that can be served by a guardian or conservator and that cannot be met with less restrictive alternatives;
  • Does not have an appropriate or responsible person available to serve as guardian or conservator; and 
  • Does not have resources to compensate a private guardian or conservator.

For additional information, contact:


Apply for Public Guardianship Services

You can complete an application for public guardianship services here: Application

When you submit the application, you will need to attach the Report of Decision-Making Capacities form. This form must be completed and signed by a physician (M.D. or D.O.), licensed psychologist, or registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). This document can be downloaded below. It is also available on the application page. 

For more information about the application process and what to expect when you apply, please read the Info Sheet - OPG Application Process linked below.