When a minor child or an incapacitated adult is appointed a court-ordered guardian and conservator, the person appointed by the court has a duty and legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the protected person or ward (minor child or incapacitated adult). It can be a little overwhelming if you are suddenly appointed by the court to care for another person and manage that person’s property and affairs. In some cases, you may have petitioned the court for this appointment, but you still must obey all laws and requirements set by the court for a conservator or guardian.
A Virginia guardianships attorney can help you understand your role and ensure you comply with all state laws for a conservatorship or guardianship. Below are some of the responsibilities and duties that a guardian or conservator may have as they care for the ward.
Arranging for Personal Care
A guardian needs to determine where the ward will live and who will care for the ward. In the case of a minor child, the child usually resides with his or her guardian. For an adult, the residence is typically determined by the level of care required. In some cases, the adult may need nursing home care or the care that an assisted living facility can provide. A guardian is responsible for ensuring the ward has sufficient and appropriate personal care, medical attention, and other issues related to the person’s health and well-being.
Identifying and Managing the Ward’s Estate
A conservator or guardian needs to identify all assets and property of the ward immediately and take steps to protect the property. After identifying all assets, the conservator may need to sell some of the assets, such as an adult’s vehicle if the adult can not drive or the adult’s home if he or she will be moving into a nursing home.
It is the guardian or conservator’s responsibility to invest and manage the ward’s assets prudently for the benefit of the ward. Depending on the size of the estate, a conservator may want to retain professional assistance to ensure investment decisions are wise and sound decisions that benefit the ward.
Other Financial Matters
The conservator or guardian is also responsible for other financial matters for the ward. These duties may include paying the ward’s bills and living expenses or filing personal income taxes for the ward. For a minor child, it may include paying for extracurricular activities or private school tuition. The money to pay these expenses is taken from the ward’s estate; therefore, the guardian or conservator must also be prudent when determining how to spend the ward’s money.
When the court appoints a conservator or guardian, the court retains jurisdiction over the matter to ensure that the ward’s best interests are protected. Therefore, a guardian or conservator will be required to file annual accountings and reports with the court. The court reviews the detailed accounting and the court questions any unexplained or suspicious transactions. A Virginia estate planning attorney can help ensure that all filing requirements are met to avoid problems and delays.
In addition, most courts require that the guardian or conservator petition the court and gain court approval before making large financial transactions. For instance, a conservator may need court approval before buying and/or selling real estate or more expensive personal property, such as vehicles or antiques.
A conservator may need court approval before liquidating large investments or transacting other financial matters that involve values that exceed a certain limit. For a minor, the guardian and conservator are also required to petition the court to terminate the conservatorship or guardianship once the child reaches the age of maturity.
Contact A Virginia Estate Planning Attorney for More Information
Serving as a guardian or conservator can be overwhelming. Having an experienced Virginia estate-planning attorney to help guide you through the process and answer questions can reduce the stress and make the process easier for you and the ward. Virginia guardianships attorney Steve Thienel is dedicated to assisting clients in Virginia, Maryland, and throughout the DC Metro area. Contact Thienel Law, LLC today for assistance with your estate planning or administration needs.