Gayle Reeves' Blog

Guardian to an Estate

Gayle A. Reeves - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A guardian is a person who is appointed by the Probate Court to manage the financial and/or personal affairs of an individual (called the ward). Prior to approving a guardian, the Court must make a finding that the ward is mentally incompetent and in need of a guardian. It must also find that the applicant is a suitable person to serve as guardian. The guardian is answerable to the Probate Court for providing proper care to the ward and proper management of the ward’s affairs. Every two years a guardian must file a report with the Probate Court verifying the ward’s condition and/or accounting for the ward’s property.

A guardian of the person must make safe living arrangements for the ward. The guardian has physical custody of the ward and must provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. The guardian has the power to authorize and approve the provision of medical, health and other professional care, treatment and services. The guardian of the person must be a natural person; it cannot be a bank or a company.

A guardian of the estate must manage the ward's financial affairs for the best interest of the ward. The guardian has the powers to pay all debts owed by the ward, collect any monies due to the ward, and generally, to manage the ward's real and personal properties. The guardian of the estate may be a natural person or a bank or a company.

One less restrictive alternative to a guardianship is a conservatorship. A conservator is a person, appointed by the Probate Court, at the request of a mentally competent adult. The adult, realizing that he or she is unable to manage certain aspects of his or her life, ask the Probate Court to appoint someone to act on his or her behalf. The powers of the conservator may be as broad, or as narrow, as the adult requests.

Another less restrictive alternative is to create a power of attorney, while an individual is competent, that appoints another to handle his or her financial affairs in the event he or she becomes incapable of managing personal and financial matters.

Whether you know of someone who may be in need of a Guardianship or you are interested in exploring less restrictive alternatives, an attorney can help you review your options.