That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
In California, a guardianship is created when an adult is given court ordered authority to care for and manage the affairs of a minor child. A guardianship may become necessary when a child’s parents die, when a child has been neglected, abused, or abandoned, or when a child’s parents are unable to care for their child. In some cases a guardianship is necessary even when one or both parents are alive and capable of parenting their child but the child’s assets need to be managed by another person. This may occur when a minor receives a personal injury award, inheritance, or insurance proceeds for a deceased family member.
There are two types of guardianships:
Guardian of the Person: The guardian is responsible for taking care of the child’s individual needs, including but not limited to, the child’s living situation, safety, education, and medical care. The court will look at what is in the best interest of the child to ensure that the child is raised in a loving, safe, and stable environment.
Guardian of the Estate: The guardian manages the child’s assets. For example, the guardian may manage the child’s bank accounts and/or investment accounts, collect any benefits the child may be entitled to, manage an inheritance received by the minor, receive any payments on life insurance policies, and/or receive any award the child is entitled to from a lawsuit.
In order to request a guardianship, you must petition the court. The court will then appoint an investigator to interview the person requesting the guardianship, the child (depending on their age), and the parents, if they are alive and able to be interviewed. Upon completion of these interviews the investigator will submit their report to the court and a hearing will be set. At the hearing the judge will decide whether or not to grant the request, and if granted, what will be the scope of the guardianship.
Once you are a guardian you cannot resign from your position without permission from the Court. If the Court decides that the guardianship should continue, then a successor guardian will be appointed. A guardianship will end for any of the following reasons: the court decides the child no longer needs a guardian and issues an order terminating the guardianship, the parents petition the court to terminate the guardianship and the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child to do so, the child turns 18, the child dies, or the child has no assets or estate left to manage (in the case of a guardianship of the estate.)
If a guardianship of the estate is sought and granted, the guardian has a fiduciary duty (the highest duty the law recognizes) to the child, such that all laws and rules must be followed and the child’s assets properly protected. We counsel and assist our clients so that everything is done correctly in order to meet this fiduciary duty. Guardians of the estate must also provide the court with a formalized accounting every two years and the court may require the guardian to post a surety bond to ensure that the guardian will not steal or misuse the child’s money. Attorney fees are paid from the estate and must be approved by the court, which ensures that any fees paid to our office are reasonable.
At Merus Law we handle both guardianships of the person and of the estate. Our attorneys take care of all court filings and see to it that our clients are fully prepared for the interview and hearing process in order to increase the likelihood that the guardianship is granted.