In a room full of guardians in the state of Ohio, a few things will be true of all of them. All have a fiduciary duty to their ward. All have been appointed by the probate court, and all answer to the court.
There are some important differences, though, that cut across the group. For example, the group might include humans, corporations and associations. And, of course, the guardians may not be the same kind of guardian or have the same scope of responsibilities (all of this is spelled out by the probate court and must be carried out as ordered).
- A guardian of the person sees to the ward's day-to-day needs, including food, shelter, clothing and health care. If the ward is a minor, the guardian of the person is responsible for the ward's education, as well. There are times, too, when a guardian of the person will make medical treatment decisions for the ward.
- A guardian of the estate takes care of the ward's property and finances. So, the guardian of the person may have the ward admitted to a skilled nursing facility, but the guardian of the estate will pay the bills. This guardian is responsible for every aspect of the ward's finances -- payments, collections, investments, disbursements and so on. Because this guardian controls the ward's assets, he or she must provide a fiduciary bond to the court.
- The court may choose to appoint a limited guardian to handle specific aspects of the ward's life. The limited guardian may be responsible for managing household expenses and nothing else. Another guardian or the ward would handle investments, inheritances and the rest.
- In our June 1 post, Taking legal action to remove a guardianship, we talked about the process of having the court terminate a guardianship. The ward would not go without help. The court would appoint an interim guardian to take over for the terminated guardian until the court appoints another.
- There may be situations that require the immediate appointment of a guardian. The court may appoint an emergency guardian to handle specific matters.
Finally, all guardianships have another thing in common: They are all unique. It isn't the powers and duties that make them different. What distinguishes one guardianship from the next is the ward.
Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "Guardianships," last updated April 2014