The Legal Obligations of Becoming a Guardian

guardian holding wrist of ward

If you have recently become a guardian for a loved one, or you are considering getting a guardianship for someone you love, you may be more concerned about your legal obligations of your position. Guardianship comes with substantial legal requirements. Here is what you need to know about your obligations as a guardian:

  1. Guardians have a fiduciary duty towards their ward
    • As a guardian, you have what is known as a “fiduciary duty” towards your ward (the person you are in charge of caring for). This means you must always place your ward’s interests before your own and must ensure that you care for them. If you fail to do so, you can be held personally liable.
  2. Guardians must account for everything they spend
    • A part of that fiduciary duty means that a guardian must keep records of every expense they make from their ward’s accounts, no matter how small. This means keeping receipts of expenses, and ensuring your records are kept constantly up-to-date. A guardian who spends their ward’s money without accounting for it can be required to personally pay back the unaccounted funds.
  3. Guardians are responsible for managing their ward’s assets
    • In addition to keeping track of expenses, a guardian also has the legal obligation to manage a ward’s assets. This means, for example, that they are responsible for maintaining their ward’s investment portfolio, and ensuring any investments are made responsibly. A guardian who manages their ward’s assets irresponsibly could be held personally liable for the ward’s losses.
  4. Guardians need to report to the court
    • Every guardian must make annual reports to the court that authorized the guardianship. These reports must be every May of each year for the prior year, and must contain detailed information on their ward’s personal and financial status. A guardian who fails to keep up their reporting requirements could face significant sanctions.
  5. Guardians must not abuse their authority
    • Finally, every guardian must not abuse their authority over their ward. This means, for example, that they cannot unjustly enrich themselves from their ward’s assets and cannot abuse their ward themselves. A guardian who violates their duty by physically, emotionally, or financially abusing their ward can expect serious civil liability and criminal prosecution.

The Virdone Law Firm is here to assist Long Island families with all of their family law, elder law, and estate issues. We pride ourselves on providing unparalleled legal representation with a foundation in personalized client service. To learn more or schedule a consultation at our Westbury office, give us a call at (516) 570 - 3875, or visit our contact page.

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