Sometimes an adult is not able to manage his or her own affairs because of advanced age or some other mental or physical disability. When a person becomes unable to care for himself or herself, it may be necessary for a guardian to assume the decision-making responsibility for the individual.
A guardian is any adult person, association, or corporation appointed by the Probate Court to assume responsibility for the care and management of the person, the estate or both, of an incompetent person. A corporation can only be a guardian of the estate and not of the person. The person who needs a guardian is known as a ward.
Before an individual is placed under a guardianship, an investigation is conducted and the prospective ward is served notice of the application and hearing by the Court's Guardianship Investigator. The Court then holds a hearing. If a guardian is appointed, the Court also decides the extent of the guardian's powers.
A guardian may be appointed either guardian of the person, of the estate, or both. A guardian of the person controls and protects the person of the ward. A guardian for the estate controls and protects the assets or property of the ward.
A guardian may be appointed with limited powers to make restricted or specific decisions of the ward. The ward retains all powers not granted to the guardian.
In an emergency in which significant injury to a prospective ward may occur unless immediate action is taken, the Court may appoint an emergency guardian for 72 hours.
The prospective ward has the right to be present at the hearing, to contest any application for guardianship, to have a record of the hearing taken, to have a friend or family member present at the hearing, and to be represented by an attorney. A prospective ward has the additional right to present evidence of a less restrictive alternative, and if indigent and requested, to have an attorney and independent expert appointed at Court expense.
The Probate Court is the superior guardian, and all guardians must obey all orders of the Court. The Court exerts its supervisory authority through the following:
Accounting: A guardian of the estate must file a written account with the Court within six months from the date of appointment and annually thereafter as to the income and expenses of the ward's estate. All receipts must be kept and comply with the format on the account form.
Reports: A guardian of an incompetent ward must file a written report, case plan, and statement of expert evaluation annually. The report concerns the status of, and continued need for the guardianship.
Citations: If a guardian fails to timely file a report, inventory, or accounting, the Court may cite a guardian to appear, and may fine, reduce the guardian's fee, or remove the guardian.
Investigations: To determine if a guardian is functioning properly, the Court my order an investigation by a Court Investigator, Law Enforcement Agency, Adult Protective Service, or other county agency.
Prior Approval: The guardian must first obtain approval of the Probate Court before entering into contracts or leases, making improvements to real estate or mortgage real estate, selling assets of the ward, settling any personal injury claim for the ward, or expending funds for the ward's needs.
Removal: The Court may, at any time, in the best interest of the ward, remove the guardian.
Training: Guardians must have completed a six-hour guardian fundamentals course approved by the Court prior to appointment, or within six months thereafter. Guardians must also complete a three-hour continuing education course annually.
Additional Responsibilities: The guardian is required to inform the Court when either a ward or guardian changes residence or when a ward dies.
In cases involving guardianships of the estate of a person, a guardian's compenation and attorney's fees are determined by the Court, and must be approved prior to fees actually being paid from the ward's assets.
A Court order will terminate a guardianship upon the death of a ward or upon the ward being adjudged competent.
The Volunteer Guardianship Program, operated by Catholic Charities Inc., has been developed to match persons willing to become Court appointed guardians with individuals who have no suitable family member or friend to serve as guardian.
Volunteers are accountable to the Huron County Probate Court.