What to Do if You’re Appointed Guardian of Property
Your grandfather Arthur can no longer make decisions on his own. A court appoints you to be Arthur’s guardian of property, to help Arthur manage his money. You become Arthur’s “fiduciary.” The law now requires you to act to a high standard of good faith and honesty.
There’s a lot of work involved with a guardianship, and the high standard could be daunting. To assist you, the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) has issued a guide: “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Court-Appointed Guardians of Property and Conservators.” Download your free copy here.
The guide details property-guardianship duties. These include keeping careful records, taking care to keep Arthur’s money separate from yours, and making sure to spend Arthur’s money for Arthur’s benefit, only. The court order signed by the judge may provide a list of your duties, or, if not, you can follow the list provided in the CFPB guide. You may be paying Arthur’s bills and taxes, overseeing bank accounts, making investments, obtaining insurance, and any other duties contained in the court order appointing you.
The guide recommends that as a first step, you must carefully read the court order. Speak to a lawyer about it if you can, and of course especially if the law in your state requires you to. The guide warns that you may be required to buy a bond, but, if you do not have good credit, you may not be able to get it. If so, the guide directs, inform the judge of this point before you are appointed.
The guide further details the guardian’s duties. These include creating an inventory of Arthur’s property, keeping Arthur’s goods and home safe, creating a budget for spending on Arthur’s behalf and how to document that spending, how to sign checks on Arthur’s behalf, and how to create an accounting to submit to the court as often as the court requires.
Also included is valuable advice to consult Arthur as much as his condition permits; to resist pressure from others who may not have Arthur’s best interests at heart; and, if in doubt, to consult the judge first before acting. You may also be required to consult and work together with other people whom Arthur has designated for health-care and other personal matters.
A guardian appointment is a big responsibility, as you must care for the person conscientiously and attentively. Be reassured, though, that help in discharging your duties is available to you from the court and from the CFPB guide.
If we can help you or a loved one understand when a guardianship may be necessary, please don’t hesitate to reach out an experienced Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified in Elder Law).