Being A Guardian: Documents To Gather
If you're considering the serious role of becoming a guardian, documents pertaining to your assets (and your ward's assets) plus costs for care will be maintained and filed. Guardianship is necessarily a very document- and detail-heavy endeavor because you're taking legal responsibility for the welfare of another human being. Guardians work very closely with the courts in their county or state, and documents are crucial to create a record of the guardianship.
The following is an overview of the various guardianship documents you'll be required to obtain and file as part of the court process.
Preserving All Guardianship Documents
Whether you’re the guardian of an elderly relative, a child, or someone otherwise unable to make their own legal decisions, you're responsible for the management and safety of that person's assets. As such, you need to gather every document relevant to the management of these assets.
Think about your duties and which documents may contain information pertaining to each duty, such as:
- Documents about medical care or treatment, particularly invoices and insurance information.
- Receipts reflecting the purchase of necessities such as food, clothes, cars, household items, and other personal items.
- Invoices showing educational costs.
- Investment and financial statements.
- Banking statements and check ledgers.
- Legal documents pertaining to your guardianship and to any lawsuits the ward may be party to.
- Wills, trusts, or any other documents regarding any inherited assets of the ward.
- Documents showing ownership and valuation of property held by the guardianship estate.
- Previous guardianship inventories, accountings, and appraisals prepared for the court.
State Guardianship Laws
A legal guardian must follow the applicable guardianship laws of the state, which are typically found in the state's probate code. You have many options for assistance, such as the National Guardianship Association (especially if you and your intended ward reside in different states).
If you reside in the same state, you can begin by contacting the local family court of your county and consulting with the court clerk. The clerk can provide you with some preliminary information and guide you to the appropriate court, depending upon the nature of your guardianship. For example, in California if you are the guardian of a minor you may be subject to both the rules of the Probate Court and the Juvenile Court.
Many states have created their own guardianship assistance division, including the following:
- New York's Guardian Assistance Network
- The Arc of New Jersey Family Institute
- Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission.
In Utah, guardian training is provided online and you must pass the Utah Guardian Pre-appointment Test before you can apply to be a guardian. You can refer to the probate code of your state, but an attorney with experience in guardianships will be best able to assist you in clearly understanding your legal responsibilities and their proper execution.
Making a Checklist of Documents
You may find the checklist below helpful in creating your own personal document checklist.
_____Power of Attorney
_____Abstracts of Title
_____Mutual Fund Statements
_____Social Security Documents
_____Income Tax Returns
More Questions? Get Legal Help With Your Guardianship Case
Gathering and maintaining your guardianship documents is a critical part of the process. However, if you're going through the process alone, you could just end up submerged with records and unsure of what to do with them. An experienced family law attorney can make your life easier by helping you navigate through the paperwork and handle the filing deadlines.