Being a guardian for a loved one includes quite a bit of responsibility. Those guardian responsibilities not only apply to taking care of the incapacitated loved one, but also providing updates to family members and other interested parties. Today we’ll discuss the top 10 “Do’s and Don’ts” of being a guardian. These top 10 guardian responsibilites will ensure that your loved one is given the best care, and will also protect you from a legal standpoint.
First let’s define the difference between a guardian and a conservator. A guardian is a person who has power over a person with regards to their health and well-being. This means they make sure that the person is housed properly, fed, medicated if necessary, and more. A conservator is a person who has power over a person’s property, which could include their money, land, and other possessions. So that’s the distinction. Guardian responsibilities include power over health and well-being while a conservator has power for property.
Now that we’ve established what a guardian is, let’s get into the list.
Top 10 Guardian Responsibilities
#1 Respect the rights and dignity of your ward.
When we use the term “ward,” we’re referring to the incapacitated person for whom you are the guardian. Even though that person may be incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions, they still have rights. So your guardian responsibilities include upholding those rights. Don’t trample or abuse them.
#2 Act in the best interest of your ward.
Do not act in your own self interest in any way with regards to your position as a guardian. This can not only cause issues between you and other loved ones of the ward, but it can also create potential legal issues for you in the future. Always do what is best for the ward.
#3 Be reasonably accessible to your ward.
Don’t just visit your ward periodically. If you can’t visit daily, visit weekly. If your ward is in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, conduct regular calls and visits to check on them. Make sure their living situation is adequate and make sure they are receiving proper care on a regular basis.
#4 Conserve for your ward’s future needs.
Part of your guardian responsibilities include using the ward’s money for their benefit. But don’t forget that the ward, just like everyone else, has rainy days. So you need to make sure they have an emergency fund. Even if it seems the ward has ample funds coming into their account on a regular basis, be sure to save enough for those rainy days. Don’t spend all of their money for their immediate care.
#5 Use the ward’s property only for their benefit.
Don’t use the ward’s property in any way for your own benefit. You’re supposed to be using their property for their health, maintenance, and support. Don’t pay your own bills with the ward’s money. That’s a big mistake. Don’t use the ward’s property for your own benefit and definitely do not transfer any of the ward’s property to your name.
We see this quite a bit with our clients. We frequently have children or siblings of guardians coming into our office with concerns about how their mom or dad’s money is being spent by a guardian. In most cases the guardian is using the ward’s money to pay their mortgage, their utilities, or using the ward’s car for their personal transportation. Don’t do this. The ward’s money is to be used solely for the ward’s benefit and shouldn’t benefit the guardian in any way.
#6 Communicate freely with siblings or other loved ones.
Unless the court orders otherwise, communication is the key. Keep your siblings and other loved ones informed with regards to the ward’s health and well-being. We see this quite a bit too. Clients will complain that a sibling, who is a guardian for their mom or dad, is not communicating with them about the health of the ward.
In some cases they didn’t know that their mom or dad was in the hospital until they saw it posted on social media. This is not okay. Your guardian responsibilities include keeping the family informed. Text, email, or make a phone call to let the family know of any changes with the ward’s health and well-being.
#7 Be your ward’s advocate.
Don’t let anyone take advantage of your ward. Don’t let anything with regards to their health go unquestioned. If they are in an assisted living, independent care, or nursing home facility, hold the caretakers in those facilities accountable. If your ward is a fall risk and keeps falling, you need to quickly address that issue so that the falls don’t keep happening. This is one of the most important guardian responsibilities and should not be taken lightly.
#8 Consider your ward’s functional and physical limitations.
Always take into account their personal needs and preferences. Don’t ignore the fact that your ward has some cognitive or some memory loss. Don’t ignore that your ward is a fall risk. Don’t ignore that they have other physical limitations that you as the guardian need to consider and get help for your ward.
Maybe they’re not mobile enough? Get them a walker. Maybe they can’t use the walker? So get them one of those power electric chairs. Whatever they need, your guardian responsibilities are to provide for them — of course not with your money, but with their money.
#9 Restore capacity at the earliest possible time.
Now this may not be possible because your ward has dementia or other functional limitations. But don’t ignore the possibility that they could regain capacity at some point. So always treat your ward with dignity and the fact that it is possible that they could regain capacity.
#10 File all status reports with the court.
Don’t ignore requests from your siblings. This goes back to the importance of communication that we discussed earlier. Filing the correct status reports will help to keep siblings in the know, and help to ensure that you’re upholding your legal responsibilities. These status reports would include communications regarding your ward’s health or the status of their bank account.
If you don’t communicate, you’re at risk for encountering legal issues. A sibling or loved one can easily go to the probate court and file a petition for an accounting from you. If they complain that you are not communicating with them, the courts would then get involved and question whether you’re upholding your fiduciary duty. That can quickly turn into a big mess, so take your guardian responsibilities seriously and file those status reports with the courts.
More Coming Soon!
We hope you enjoyed these 10 do’s and don’ts for a guardian. We’ll have another blog in the next few weeks explaining the do’s and don’ts for a conservator. Remember a guardian is somebody that has power over a person’s health and well-being. And a conservator has the power over a person’s property — money, land, those things.
Contact Us So We Can Help
If you have any questions guardian responsibilities, we’ll be glad to help. If you are an appointed guardian and want to ensure you are taking the proper legal steps with regard to care for your ward, we can certainly assist you. If your sibling is a guardian and you feel they are not upholding their fiduciary duties, we will make sure that the rights of your loved one are being upheld. Just give us a call at (229) 226-8183 or COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment.
If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.