Guardianship Administration and Litigation
A guardian is expected to comprehend and implement the responsibilities outlined in the documents appointing him or her. When the guardian is in doubt, he or should seek the court’s approval before taking action. While a specific guardianship may contain particular instructions, he or she is also expected to fulfill general duties.
General guardian duties typically include the following:
- Becoming and remaining acquainted with the ward and keeping track of his or her capacities, needs, limitations, and physical and mental health;
- Managing and maintaining documentation of the ward’s finances, living arrangements, health and medical care, education and training, personal needs, desires and preferences, employment, recreation, and leisure time;
- Becoming acquainted with the ward’s family, doctors, nurses, case workers, therapists, and other important contacts;
- Taking care of the ward’s personal effects;
- Managing the ward’s money for his or her support, care, education, and welfare needs;
- Saving the ward’s excess money for the ward’s future needs;
- Informing the court of changes in the ward’s residence; and
- Immediately notifying the court upon the ward’s change in condition or death.
Guardians are also granted various powers by virtue of their position. Unless otherwise stated, these include the power to consent to the ward’s medical care, the power to receive money payable to the ward, the power to take custody of the ward, the power to take action to force an obligated party to support the ward, the power to petition the court for authority to consent to the adoption or marriage of the ward, and the power to petition the court for authority to apply for divorce or legal separation on the ward’s behalf.
Generally, the guardian is entitled to reasonable compensation for his or her services. He or she is not required to use his or her own funds to provide for the ward, but rather can use the guardian’s funds, unless he or she signs an agreement accepting financial liability. Guardians are not liable to third parties for the ward’s acts. And guardians are not liable for injury to the ward resulting from the wrongful or negligent conduct of the providers.
When an interested party is dissatisfied with the appointment of a guardian, he or she can attempt to remove the guardian through litigation. Common reasons for wanting to remove a guardian include when a guardian is not necessary for the ward, when the guardian’s conduct is not in the ward’s best interests, or when the interested party believes he or she would be a more suitable guardian.
Documentation in support and notice to interested parties are required to petition to remove a guardian. A temporary substitute guardian may be appointed for up to six months if the appointed guardian is not effectively performing his or her duties. A successor co-guardian may also be appointed to serve immediately. A modification of guardianship may be granted by the court if the extent of protection or assistance granted is excessive or insufficient. A guardianship naturally terminates at the death of the ward or guardian.
Removing a guardian is a complex process that requires the help of an experienced attorney.