Duties of Handling Property
So you’ve decided to file for Guardianship and you were recently appointed the guardian of your parent (the Ward) and are now in charge of their property and person. So what are your responsibilities.
The first things you’ll have to do is begin marshalling the Ward’s assets and begin arranging for their care (if needed). Your time for marshalling the Ward’s assets and determining the level of care needed is limited to 60 days of receiving your Letters of Guardianship. Within 60 days you’ll be required to file with the Court a Verified Inventory and an Initial Guardianship Plan of the Person. Within 4 months of signing your Letters of Guardianship, you must have completed an 8 hour course (4 hours if the guardian of minor’s property) that is approved by the chief judge of the circuit court and taught by a court-approved organization. Contact your local lawyer bar association for details of where and when these courses will be taught.
Marshaled Assets – Inventory Report
The filing of the Verified Inventory will require you to locate each asset of the incapacitated person. Ordinarily this is done by having the Ward’s mail forwarded to your address. Generally, the information recovered is the basis of how you will begin accounting for the Ward’s property on each successive anniversary of the issuance of your Letters of Guardianship.
The initial Verified Inventory of the Property must consist of the following:
- All property of the ward, real and personal, that has come into the guardian’s possession or knowledge, including a statement of all encumbrances, liens, and other secured claims on any item, claims against the property, causes of action accruing to the ward, and any trusts of which the ward is a beneficiary.
- The location and legal description of all real and personal property in sufficient detail so that it may be clearly identified or located.
- A description of all sources of income, including, without limitation, social security benefits and pensions.
- A copy of the most current statements pertaining to the Ward’s cash assets from all institutions where cash or other financial instruments is on deposit. These documents will act as the starting point of next years inventory along with the appraised value of the Wards real and personal property.
- You must also include an inventory of the contents of the Ward’s safety deposit box (if any). Any inventory taken of the Ward’s safety deposit box must be conducted in the presence of the employee, who must verify the contents of the box by signing a copy of the inventory which must be filed with the court within 10 days after the box is opened. Nothing may be removed from the ward’s safe-deposit box without specific court approval.
From experience it is strongly suggested that you obtain an appraisal of as much of the property as you can. It is also strongly suggested that upon entry into the Ward’s real property that you take photographs of the surroundings before sorting through the Ward’s documents pertaining to the Ward’s assets and where they are held.
Each year you must also file an annual report of the Ward’s property which must contain the following information:
- A full and correct account of the receipts and disbursements of all of the Ward’s property over which the guardian has control and a statement of the ward’s property on hand at the end of the accounting period. The property on hand must match the last statement supplied from each institution at the close of the reporting anniversary date.
- A copy of the annual or year-end statement of all of the ward’s cash or other financial institutional accounts where the cash, stocks, bonds or other securities is deposited. Although Florida statutes do not require it, experience suggests that you attach the periodic statements from each institution (usually monthly) in your report as well.
The guardian must obtain a receipt, canceled check, or other proof of payment for all expenditures and disbursements made on behalf of the ward. The guardian must preserve all evidence of payment, along with other substantiating papers, for a period of 3 years after his or her discharge. The receipts, proofs of payment, and substantiating papers need not be filed with the court but shall be made available for inspection and review at a time and place for auditing as the court may order.
Plans Regarding the Care of the Ward
You will be required to file an initial and annual report indicating a prescribed plan to meet the medical and social needs of the Ward.
The initial guardianship plan of the Person must include the following:
- A statement of the medical, mental, or personal care services that will be provided for the welfare of the ward along with a statement of the social and personal services that will be provided for the benefit of the ward;
- The place and kind of residential setting that is best suited for the needs of the ward;
- A listing or application made for insurance on behalf of the Ward for their health needs and any other private or government benefits to which the Ward may be entitled.
- The report must also contain information regarding any physical and mental examinations necessary to determine the ward’s medical and mental health treatment needs.
It is important to remember that the initial guardianship plan for a Ward must be based on the recommendations of the examining committee’s examination. Those recommendations are ordinarily incorporated into the Court’s Order determining the Ward’s incapacity.
The guardian of the person must also file with the court an annual guardianship plan which updates the information about the condition of the ward. The annual guardianship report must be filed in the same timeline as the reports of the property. The annual plan must specify the current needs of the ward and how those needs are proposed to be met in the coming year.
Each plan for an adult ward must include:
- The ward’s address at the time of filing the plan;
- The name and address of each place where the ward resided during the preceding year including the length of stay and whether the location is best suited for the Wards current needs;
- Plans for the coming year that the ward is in the best residential setting to meet his or her needs.
- Information concerning the medical, mental health and rehabilitation needs of the ward, including the professional medical treatment given to the ward during the preceding year and a report of a physician who examined the ward within the last 90 days before the applicable reporting period. The physicians report must contain an evaluation of the ward’s condition and a statement of the current level of capacity of the ward.
- The guardian of the person report must include a plan regarding the coming years medical, mental health, and rehabilitative services to be provided to the Ward along with the social and personal services currently used and a statement of how well the ward communicates and maintains interpersonal relationships with others. The Guardian must also report on the social condition of the ward.
- If the Ward is an adult, the Guardian must address the issue of restoration of rights to the ward and include a summary of the activities during the preceding year that were designed to enhance the capacity of the ward and a statement of whether the ward can have any rights restored or whether any such rights will be sought for restoration.
If the Ward is a minor, the guardian must include a report concerning the education of the minor, including a summary of the Ward’s school progress report.
Unless the Court orders otherwise, the Guardian of the Ward’s property must file an annual report of the property and person within 90 days of the last day of the month that the Letters of Guardianship were issued. Thus, a Guardian will have either 121 days or 91 days to file the annual reports depending on when and what month the Letters of Guardianship were signed. In addition, the first accounting period must end within 1 year after the end of the month in which the letters of guardianship were issued to the guardian of the property. The filing of the annual reports is normally done on the anniversary date of the signing of the Letters of Guardianship. However, the guardian can elect its anniversary date for filing reports to be either calendar or fiscal. Whatever the election, the guardian must notify the court as to the guardian’s filing intention within 30 days from the date the guardian was issued their Letters of Guardianship. All subsequent annual accountings must be filed on the same accounting period as the first annual accounting unless the court authorizes or directs otherwise.
If a guardian fails to file the required guardianship property or person report on time, the court will order the guardian to file the report within 15 days after the service of the order. The Court may also demand the guardian to show cause why she or he should not be compelled to file such report within the allotted time. If the guardian fails to file his or her report within the time specified by the Court without good cause, the Court may cite the guardian for contempt of court and fine him or her.
Lastly, the Guardian must review the annual reports (to the extent possible) with the Ward unless he or she is a minor or has been determined to be totally incapacitated. There is no requirement that the report of the property be filed with the lineal descendants or surviving spouse of the Ward.
As you can see, being a guardian is not as simple as it may appear. To assist you in understanding the filing dates and report requirements, it is suggested that you work with your legal counsel to stay within the demands of the Florida statutes. Please note that the above duties only pertain to reporting and not to the manner in which a guardian must manage a Ward’s property. Next week we’ll begin covering the do’s and don’ts of handling a Ward’s property.