As Guardian ad Litem in Chapter 54 guardianships, part of my duties is to talk with the proposed guardian. I discover that many times, the guardians do not understand what it means to be a guardian. I hope that this article will help clarify a guardian’s required duties:
1. What now? I always recommend new guardians watch THIS VIDEO (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBjNnEY8dyg) for an explanation of your duties as guardian, bought to you by the Vernon County and Wisconsin State Bar Associations. 15 minutes well spent.
2. Separate Bank Account – You, as guardian, should not put your ward’s money into your own bank accounts. You should open a separate “guardianship” account as soon as possible after you are appointed so your money remains separate from your ward’s money. Also, if the ward is married, you should also try to separate your ward’s money from their spouse so you can accurately keep track of how your ward’s money is spent. This is true even if you are guardian for BOTH husband and wife.
3. Visits – You are required to visit your ward regularly, I recommend at least quarterly.
4. Documents to File with the Court:
- Inventory – due within 60 days of your appointment. A snapshot of your ward’s assets on the day you were appointed
- Report on the Condition of the Ward – due annually
- Accounting – due annually. Reporting to the Court on how much income and expenses were incurred on your ward’s behalf each year. Also includes a current inventory of your ward’s assets
5. Using the Ward’s Money. Generally, you are not allowed to use the wards money for Gifting, Travel reimbursements or to purchase any single item over $500. If you do want to use the wards money for these types of expenses – ASK THE COURT FIRST
- Gift– Generally, guardians cannot use the ward’s money to buy gifts for the ward to give to others. Example: you are the guardian of your mother; your mother gave fifty dollars to each grandchild during Christmas every year before you were appointed as her guardian. You are no longer allowed to give this gift. You must petition the court by writing a simple letter or filling out a court-provided form requesting the ability to gift. You should discuss your mom’s pattern of gift giving in your letter.
- Travel Reimbursement – You cannot pay yourself for going to visit your ward. As with gifting, you must ask the Court first.
- Big ticket purchases over $500.00 – guardians should always request permission from the court to buy any single item that costs $500 or more. Again, usually a simple letter will suffice.
6. Selling Real Estate – Before your sell any real estate owned by the ward, you must first ask the Court for permission to do so. The Court will usually require any sale, even it the sale is to a family member, to be for Fair Market Value.
The most important thing to remember is if you have questions, contact an attorney!