In terms of estate planning, contemplating financial matters and making long-term life decisions can be…
Imagine your grandfather, Martin is elderly and has deteriorated to a point where he is now unable to make decisions for himself. A court appoints you to be Martin’s guardian of property, to help Martin manage his money. You become Martin’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 Martin’s money separate from yours, and making sure to spend Martin’s money for Martin’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 Martin’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 Martin’s property, keeping Martin’s goods and home safe, creating a budget for spending on Martin’s behalf and how to document that spending, how to sign checks on Martin’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 Martin as much as his condition permits; to resist pressure from others who may not have Martin’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 Martin 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.