What are your responsibilities as guardian?
Generally the duties of being a guardian are to oversee the welfare and safety of the person under guardianship, and to attend to the financial needs of the individual, using their assets wisely. A guardian has a legal duty, called a “fiduciary duty”, to act in the best interests of the individual.
When you are appointed guardian, it all depends if you are plenary guardian or limited guardian. Being a plenary guardian means that you have full power to make any of the decisions for both the financial and social/medical needs of that person. You will have all authority to handle their banking finances, any contracts they have to go into, and you will also have rights that are delegated to you through the court to assign their social situation, their residential situation, and/or who they spend time with, if they can vote, marry, etc. You can choose their medical providers and doctors. So whatever responsibilities are delegated to you though the court you have authority to do.
In a limited guardianship, it’s a little bit different. There’s only a limited scope of guardianship where you can only handle the affairs that the court says you can handle. Certain things as guardian you need to get permission from the court to do. You would have to petition the court in order to do anything that the court has not already given you permission to do.
It is also often thought that if you become guardian of, let’s just say, your parent that you are responsible for their debts. That is not true. You have a fiduciary duty to handle the finances and the assets of the ward, but you are not liable for their debts. However, as a responsibility of handling their assets and finances, you have to answer to the court and file a report every year showing how the ward’s money was spent.
Deciding to be guardian of a loved one is a huge responsibility. Make sure to consult with your local, experienced Elder Law attorney before making any decisions.G