Family guardians who don’t understand the legal responsibilities of guardianship and aren’t well versed in guardianship or conservatorship law can easily be removed and replaced by a professional or third-party (complete strangers) guardians, despite the very best of intentions.
Guardianship is not a matter involving common sense. It’s a binding legal responsibility with real consequences if procedures or court orders aren’t followed.
Protect yourself and your position as your loved one’s guardian by reading the law often – so an innocent act doesn’t cost you everything.
As an example, we often hear cases involving family guardians who are taking care of their loved one at home but decide to move to a different county or even a different state. When it’s time to file their yearly accounting, they go back to the court to find out what they should do – and then discover they should have come to the court before moving. And now because they didn’t, they’re in danger of losing the guardianship because of this one action. Don’t let this happen to you.
We are contacted by worried families who weren’t even aware of their responsibility as a guardian to maintain financial records and file yearly accountings.
Professional guardians are much more aware of the law and generally don’t make these kinds of mistakes.
The reform movement calls for better education of guardians on a whole, including family guardians. Right now, professionals have an edge because guardianship is their business; it’s what they do every day. Whereas many family guardians are also caregivers, who spend most of their waking hours tending to their loved one’s needs, often at the expense of their own health. Good intentions, however, maybe not be enough to prevent the judge from removing a family member for any offense and bringing in a professional guardian as a replacement.
While many, hopefully most, professional guardians do a great job and care about their wards, they are strangers without an intimate knowledge of their wards’ preferences, history, or needs. Good caring family is always preferable to a good caring professional guardian.
So….read as much as you can, starting with your state statutes, the National Guardianship Association’s “Standards of Practice” (an excellent guide) and your handbook (if you’re lucky enough to be in a state which has created a handbook). Keep in mind, handbooks are being revised as reform pushes forward. So, make it a practice to ask for a new handbook at least every year when you file your yearly accounting.
If you are guardian of the person and estate, keep good records of both care and finances. People are more apt to think of documenting finances, but it’s equally important to document care. Keep track of trips to the doctor or emergency room, visiting nurses or therapists, etc. Keep track of visitors. Keep track of successes (such as improvements in health). Keep track of everything you can think of: keep a diary.