Have you been approached about serving as a guardian or conservator for a family member or close friend? It can be a challenging role, but so long as you understand the process and what’s expected of you, it’s something that most people can handle.
Understand Your Role and the Needs of the Protected Person
In most states, the court will have a say in the process of choosing a conservator or guardian. As a person who is likely to step into the role, the best thing you can do to be successful is ensure that you understand what will be expected of you and what specific needs the protected person has.
The responsibilities can change based on the laws of your state, but guardians are generally in charge of managing the day-to-day affairs and personal management decisions of a protected person, such as where he or she lives, medical decisions, etc. Conservators, on the other hand, are tasked with managing financial assets.
Read more about the difference between a guardian and conservator here, and always be sure to check with the laws in your state to understand your primary responsibilities and powers.
Most importantly, you should understand the particular needs of the protected person you will be helping. Does the person have memory or cognitive issues? Is he or she suffering from a physical disability?
As a guardian, you will have access to medical records as well as have the ability to make decisions regarding:
- Doctors appointments
- Medical procedures
- Social activities
- Living situation
As a conservator, you will have access to the protected person’s finances. Make sure you work with an attorney and/or financial advisor to:
- Track down existing contracts/agreements
- Prevent the misuse and misappropriation of funds
- Pay and collect debts
- Manage investments
Conflicts with Family/Friends
As the person in charge or financial or medical decisions, you will occasionally run into conflicts with the protected person’s family or friends because they may not understand the authority given to you as a guardian or conservator. This is sometimes inevitable, so be prepared to explain your actions and back them up using established laws and the powers that were given to you. Speak with an attorney for help navigating conflicts with family/friends of a protected person.
If you find that a person is “backseat driving” while you are a guardian or conservator, try sitting down with them and explaining the laws that govern your position. It may be that they are misunderstanding the position and are not aware of what the courts expect you to accomplish.
Keeping good records and an organized accounting with the court will help address conflicts with family and friends.
Audits and Annual Accounting
Audits and accounting are a big part of conservatorships. For a more expansive guide on annual accounting, read our blog post about it here. For more information on what to do if you are being audited, read our guide here.
Seek Legal Advice and Protection
We always advise that you communicate with an attorney to help you navigate the process and know your authority as a conservator or guardian. Depending on the state, you may also be required to secure a surety bond before the court will approve you for the position. For more information on how to obtain and conservatorship or guardianship surety bond, contact The Patrick J. Thomas Agency today.
Disclaimer: this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal counsel, please contact an attorney directly.