You’ve recently been granted guardianship over an elderly loved one – now what? Ideally, your Texas guardianship attorney has gone over your fiduciary duties toward your ward and explained the parameters of your duties. Texas has two types of guardianships, limited and full, and each one has different obligations and responsibilities.
Responsibilities of a Limited Guardianship vs. Full
Whether you are a full or limited guardian, your first priority is the well-being of your loved one. When making decisions, consider whether the choice will benefit your loved one and if it will fulfill the duty assigned to you by a Texas court.
Understanding your court-ordered obligations is the next step. The judge establishes you as the guardian and sets forth certain duties and powers you have. You may be authorized to make legal, health care, or financial decisions for your loved one – or all three, if you have full guardianship. Some of the decisions you make require court approval; if you aren’t sure which ones will, consult your lawyer.
Your Fiduciary Duty Towards Your Ward
A fiduciary duty to the ward is handling their finances in their best interests. This can mean paying their bills, making investment decisions, or even selling their house to provide income for long-term care in an assisted living community.
Always keep your finances separate from your ward’s finances to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Establishing separate bank and investment accounts can help. You may wish to have a professional accountant look over your ward’s finances to give you a better picture of what they have or even to make recommendations about how you can best manage their money.
You are also responsible for keeping accurate records of how you manage the ward’s finances, including what is received (such as retirement or investment income) and what you spend. Your accountant can help you keep the books for your ward.
Texas courts require certain reports to be filed; ensuring they are complete and filed on time is critical to maintaining guardianship. Your Dallas guardianship attorney helps you correctly submit your legal paperwork and can answer your questions as you go. The first report is typically an inventory of all the ward’s property. You will also be required to submit an annual accounting detailing the expenses and receipts of your ward. Once your ward passes away, you will need to file a final accounting of their estate with the court to officially resolve your guardianship.
Your Responsibility For Involving Your Ward
As much as possible, consult your ward about the decisions you make. This can include where they will live or changes to their investments. Communicate what you will do, and try to explain how your decisions will benefit the ward.
Try to encourage socialization for your ward, whether it’s spending time with friends at the local senior center or visiting with family. Many people requiring guardianship may have some form of cognitive decline, so work with your loved one’s treating physician to see what kinds of socialization will benefit the person and what kind of situations to avoid.
Do You Need Help With Your Guardianship?
Texas guardianships can significantly limit the agency of the ward, so therefore the requirements expected of a guardian are also stringent. A guardianship attorney, one focused on Elder Law and with experience helping families establish guardianships, can help you navigate this complicated process. Working with a lawyer can help ensure that you file all required paperwork on time and that it’s accurate. They can help you understand which decisions you can make without court approval and how to properly petition the court to approve other decisions you wish to make. Contacting an experienced Dallas guardianship attorney is the first step to fulfilling your duties as a guardian.