The attorneys with Nay & Friedenberg explain the duties of a court appointed guardian.
As parents of minor children, we are their ‘natural guardians.’ However, to make decisions over an incapacitated adult or a minor who is not our child, we must go to court and become their ‘legal guardian.’ The person who becomes the ‘protected person’ is typically a developmentally disabled adult, someone with Alzheimer’s dementia or an adult with a major mental health disorder.
A legal guardian is appointed by the court after a process that insures that the civil rights of the allegedly incapacitated person are not disregarded. Once the appointment is in place, the guardian has duties which should be taken very seriously. The court supervises these duties by requiring certain filings. These are duties regarding the person, not finances.
For minors, typically the guardian determines health care treatment, living arrangements, schooling, and health insurance. For adults, typically the guardian determines health care treatment including end of life decisions, placement, and visitation. Authority is very broad. Generally, these decisions do not require prior court approval.
Statutes do place some limits on the authority of a guardian. For example, the guardian cannot interfere with the protected person’s right to vote and cannot, without court authority, authorize an abortion or electroshock therapy.
Placement over an incapacitated adult is commonly a huge issue. Currently, the guardian must give the court and protected person advance notice of a permanent placement and of the sale of the primary residence.
A guardian is required to file a yearly report with the court and send a copy to the protected person and others who have requested a copy. The report is due 30 days after the anniversary of the court appointment.
A common question is whether the guardian will be financially liable for being guardian. The truth is that there are costs associated with the appointment, including a court filing fee, a social work report, personal service fee and legal fee. These are generally paid for by the guardian although he or she can then ask court permission to be reimbursed from the protected person’s funds.
A guardian, merely by being guardian, is not liable for the protected person’s expenses such as care costs, uninsured medical expenses and living expenses. Similarly, the guardian is not liable for misdeeds of the protected person such as running up credit card debt. The only real risk of liability is if the guardian is negligent himself or herself.
The person chosen as Guardian has an important role in the protected person’s life. An experienced Guardianship attorney can help you understand just what’s involved – Contact the Guardianship attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.
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