Planning for the Future
Planning for the Future

What Is a Guardian?

Providing financial assistance for those who need it most.

What is a Guardian?

A person appointed by the court to be legally responsible for another person and/or for another person’s property. While individuals are usually appointed to serve as guardians, a corporation or association may also serve in that capacity. A person for whom a guardian has been appointed is called a "ward" or "protected person."

Selecting a Guardian

In selecting a guardian, the court is required to give preference as follows:

  • a person designated in a durable power of attorney executed by the protected person;
  • a spouse of the incapacitated person;
  • an adult child of the incapacitated person;
  • a parent of the incapacitated person or a person nominated by will of deceased parent of the incapacitated person or by any writing signed by a parent of the incapacitated person and attested to by at least two witnesses;
  • any person related to the incapacitated person by blood or marriage with whom the incapacitated person has resided for more than six months before the filing of the petition;
  • a person nominated by the incapacitated person who is caring for or paying for the care of the incapacitated person;

Guardian of a Person

A "guardian of the person" is appointed to protect and have physical custody of a ward and to provide for the ward’s day-to-day maintenance, paid from the ward’s assets. Maintenance means providing food, shelter, clothing, health care and other necessities. It includes responsibility for the education of a minor ward as required by law, and making decisions about medical treatment and other professional services the ward may require. Only a "natural person" (not a bank or a company) can be appointed as a guardian of the person.

Guardian of the Estate

A "guardian of the estate" is appointed to manage the property and financial assets of the ward for the ward’s best interests. Specifically, the guardian of the estate must:

  • pay all debts owed by the ward;
  • collect all money owed to the ward;
  • settle and adjust any assets received from an estate;
  • deposit all funds into an account in the name of the guardian as fiduciary;
  • protect, preserve and invest the ward’s funds not needed for current obligations according to legal guidelines;
  • file or defend lawsuits on behalf of the ward to protect his or her interests;
  • file an inventory and file accounts of the ward’s estate with the court every two years;
  • seek court approval for expenditures or transfers;
  • file income tax returns and pay taxes for the ward;

Unless the court order appointing a guardian specifies otherwise, the same person is normally named as both guardian of the person and the estate.

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