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What are the duties of a guardian?

When picking a guardian for your children, you need to think carefully about the duties that they'll have to perform. It's imperative that you pick the right person, and you need someone who can take these tasks in stride. That's also why it's so important to talk with them beforehand, making sure they understand exactly what being a guardian means and what they'll need to do if you pass away unexpectedly.

It is worth noting that guardians are not always for minor children. They may also be used for those with special needs and requirements that mean they must be cared for even into adulthood. Again, talk with the guardian for your children to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

So, what are some of the duties, responsibilities and obligations to consider? The guardian takes over your role as a parent and may need to:

  • Give the child a stable home and a place to live
  • Make sure that the child gets all proper medical care that they require
  • Ensure that the child gets a proper education
  • Provide the child with clothes, food and other necessities in life
  • Buy necessities for the child on a regular basis
  • Pay off any bills that the child incurs, as a parent would
  • Take care of the child's general financial needs and stability
  • Make medical decisions for the child, when necessary

The exact needs of every child differ. A child with special needs or disabilities may need care for life. Another child may just need a place to live while finishing high school. An infant may need proper medical appointments and a lifetime of care. The obligations above give you an idea of what the guardian needs to do, but they don't address every single issue.

How is this different than a conservator?

A conservator is similar to a guardian, but the focus is financial. Some people -- even adults -- need someone else to take care of them financially. That can be the conservator's responsibility, even when the person is able to live on their own and take care of themselves in a general sense.

A guardian will also have the financial obligations that a conservator has, in handling money for a child under their control, but things can get more complex for a conservator. They may need to handle income and expenses for someone who cannot do so on their own. It's more than just paying the bills.

The legal side

Maybe you want to set up a guardian for a child and make it part of your estate plan. Maybe you're a family member who feels concerned about a guardian and wants to have them removed. Regardless, make sure you know what legal steps you can take.

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