Being A Guardian: Documents To Gather
You should begin gathering documents right from the first moment you consider taking on the role of a guardian. Guardianship is necessarily a very document and detail-heavy endeavor, because you are 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.
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 are 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. First, the National Guardianship Association is a good resource, 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, such as New York's Guardian Assistance Network, the Guardianship Association of New Jersey, and the 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. To locate the laws and relevant guardianship documents for your state, use Findlaw's State Guardianships reference.
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