A starter guide to guardianship
Being a guardian for another person is a big responsibility. As a guardian, you are accountable for that person’s well-being; their safety, health care, finances, assets – all aspects of their daily life. Important safeguards must be put in place to protect individuals under care from neglect, abuse and exploitation. For example, when creating bank accounts as a guardian, create the accounts in the name of the person under guardianship with their social security number, and add your name indicating you as guardian.
Remember, the finances you are managing are for the dependent’s use only. It is important not to commingle funds or borrow from guardian accounts. Additionally, always remember that the court order appointing you as guardian details your authority as a guardian. The court order is the first place you should look whenever you have a question about what you can -- and cannot -- do in your role as guardian.
The next place you should look for answers is the guardianship laws in your state. Most states post these laws on their website or in a handbook. It is extremely important to educate yourself on what decisions require an additional and specific court order. For example, in most states, making gifts, selling real estate, or spending principal as opposed to income, require a specific grant of authority from the court.
Unless you are well-versed in guardianship law, you should consult an attorney before proceeding with making gifts, selling real estate or spending principal on behalf of the person in your care.
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