If a court appoints you as the guardian of an elderly loved one, it is crucial to understand your duties. As a guardian, you make financial and legal decisions on behalf of your loved one. You also must keep accurate records of all transactions. All of these responsibilities can be a daunting task, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you can successfully serve as the guardian of your loved one.
Does Your Loved One Need a Guardian?
If you believe your loved one needs a guardian, you can file a petition for guardianship at the Clerk of Court in the county where your loved one lives. The court will look at your petition and set a hearing date. If your loved one’s doctors, neighbors, and relatives show evidence that they need help, the court will likely decide they need a guardian.
You may apply to become the guardian of your loved one at that point. Usually, the court chooses a guardian already familiar with the individual in question, including knowledge about their finances, bills, daily life, etc.
However, instead of petitioning for your loved one to receive a guardian, you may also consider filing a durable general power of attorney. This legal document gives you all the capabilities you need to care for your loved one. The difference is that you would not need to appear in court or submit inventories or accountings.
What are the Guardian’s Duties
Once a court appoints a guardian to a person shown to be incompetent or incapacitated, that person becomes the “Ward,” and the appointed caretaker becomes the “Guardian” Guardians have different roles and responsibilities depending on what the court decides their role is.
Some types of guardians include:
Guardian of the Estate:
A guardian of the estate is responsible for making financial decisions on behalf of the Ward. This includes managing and investing the estate assets, paying bills, filing tax returns, and more. The duties of a Guardian of the estate can be complex, so it is crucial to seek legal help.
Guardian of the Person:
A guardian of the person is responsible for making decisions about the care and welfare of the Ward. This includes decisions about medical treatment, living arrangements, education, and more. The duties of a Guardian of the person can be complex. If a court appoints you as a Guardian of the person, it is vital to seek legal help. Ensure that you are fulfilling your duties in the best way possible.
A general guardian cares for both the personal and the estate needs of the Ward. Covering the duties of both roles makes this type of guardian much more involved in the Ward’s life on every level.
But Wait, There’s More
As a General or Estate Guardian, you have responsibilities to the court to file inventories and accountings on time. If there is a problem with your accounting, you can face consequences. The Clerk of Superior Court may issue an order to appear and show why you failed to file an inventory or account.
Inventories and accountings can become unreasonably complicated. For that reason, you may prefer to seek help from an experienced guardianship attorney to meet the court’s expectations. Promptness and accuracy are crucial in these filings.
In addition, consequences can be severe for not managing your financial duties properly. Making a proper accounting within 20 days after the due date of your accounting is crucial. If you run late, the sheriff may serve you with an order of contempt and commitment. At this point, you can end up in the county jail until you comply. (1)
Because the duties are so vast, it’s essential to have some legal guidance to fulfill your responsibilities to your loved one.
All of this responsibility may feel overwhelming, but with some legal help, you can successfully act as a Guardian. Your loved one can benefit from your careful attention to their needs. At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, our guardianship attorneys can walk with you every step of the way, including helping you:
- Comply with North Carolina and Federal law
- Meet the expectations of the Clerk of Superior Court
- Comply with recordkeeping requirements to survive audits
- Keep personal liability to a minimum
- Resolve and litigate disputes
- Comply with the duties and responsibilities of a Guardian
- Prepare inventories, annual, and final accounts
- Prepare detailed itemizations with supporting documentation for Court review
- Represent you in contested hearings
- Assist with getting permission to liquidate assets
- Navigate high conflict matters where family members disagree about the best interest of a family member
- Handle the legal issues if there are accusations of exploitation
Get in touch with us today to set up a consultation. Our experienced guardianship attorneys can walk you through every step of your unique case to help you be the best guardian possible.