Court-appointed estate guardians accept significant fiduciary responsibilities. Understand the legal commitment.
When Is a Guardian of the Estate Necessary?
LegalZoom defines guardianship of adults as:
A legal mechanism whereby a suitable person makes important decisions for an incompetent or disabled adult when they cannot make decisions for themselves.
Laws governing guardianships vary by state. In some states, the same person can be appointed as a guardian of both “the person” and “the estate.” In other states, the court prefers to have two different people appointed to these roles, given the broad scope of responsibilities.
In either case, it is important to carefully evaluate whether a guardian of the estate is necessary. As New Jersey Courts emphasizes:
By far, the most common situation in which guardians of the estate are unnecessarily appointed is when an incapacitated person has no assets (no real property, no personal property of the substantial value) and receives only Social Security income. For example, a parent of a disabled adult child or a child of an elderly parent can serve as representative payee for Social Security without being appointed as guardian of the estate.
If an incapacitated person has an estate—like income from earnings or pension, real property, stocks and bonds, etc.—then it is likely necessary that a guardian be appointed to take control of these assets and manage the estate.
Obtaining A Surety Bond
Generally, courts require a guardian of the estate to post a surety bond prior to finalization of the appointment by the court. This bond, often referred to as a guardianship bond, protects the interest and affairs of a ward in accordance with the applicable state laws.
It is important to obtain the bond quickly—delays can prolong legal proceedings, leaving the ward without a guardian and the assets at risk. Guardians are not allowed to begin deciding about the resources of a ward until qualification by the court is completed.
Colonial Surety Company is an easy choice for obtaining a guardianship bond efficiently and quickly. We are licensed and admitted in all US states and territories. Our digital, direct to consumer approach puts you a few clicks away from obtaining your bond. The steps are easy — get a quote online, fill out your information, and enter your payment method. You can even print or e-file your bond from your home, office or the courthouse. Obtain a Guardianship Bond Now.
Acting In Good Faith: Once Appointed…
Once appointed as a guardian of the estate by a court, a guardian has a fiduciary duty to the ward—a guardian is legally bound to act in the best interest of the ward. New Jersey Courts advises: As a guardian of the estate, your first priority is to gather together and protect the assets of the guardianship estate.
New Jersey Courts provides an online Duties and Responsibilities guide to further help guardians of the estate understand their obligations. The following duties are among those addressed in more detail:
- Open a separate guardianship bank account.
- Retitle assets and accounts in the name of the guardianship.
- Maintain records of guardianship account transactions.
- Investigate and inventory the incapacitated person’s assets and liabilities.
- If required by the Judgment, file an initial inventory with the court and send copies to interested parties.
- Keep original papers (insurance policies, deeds) in a safe and secure location.
- Discuss decisions with the protected person, and consider their input and preferences. If the incapacitated person’s preferences are unknown or potentially harmful, make decisions based on what you believe is in their best interest.
- If a surety bond is required, continue to pay premiums to maintain the bond.
Help for Busy Lawyers—and Their Clients Too
Colonial Surety Company provides a direct, digital and instant way to obtain—and e-file—court bonds, including guardianship bonds, estate bonds, conservator bonds, trustee bonds, administrator bonds—and more.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct seller and writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and most U.S.
At Colonial, it’s easy to obtain a bond: get a quote online, fill out your information, and enter your payment method. Print or e-file your bond from your home, office or the courthouse. It’s that simple!
.Attorneys are invited to obtain a Colonial Partnership Account® . This offers you even more efficiency—and lower costs for clients.