Guardianship is the legal term for when a court appoints someone to supervise the activities of another. In New Hampshire, guardianships of adults and of children's estates are the exclusive responsibility of the Probate Court. Guardianships of children are in Family Court.

Guardianships of minors and minors' estates can be granted when both parents are otherwise incapable of doing so for their children. The law presumes that parents are the natural guardians of their children, unless a court orders otherwise. Guardianship over the person of a minor substitutes the parental decision-making responsibility of parents to the guardian to one degree or another, for such matters as where a child will go to school, medical decisions and religious activities.

Guardianship over the estate of a minor gives the guardian authority over money, assets, accounts, or trusts of a minor until the minor becomes 18 or until the parent resumes that role. Parents can retain some of their role under a guardianship depending on what the court determines is needed for the interests of the child.

"Guardianship provides for the care of children or adults who cannot do so for themselves. "

Guardianships of adults are granted where the adult becomes incapable for him or herself to make decisions or manage financial affairs. Alzheimer's Disease, senile dementia, stroke, and organic brain ailments are but some of the medical causes leading to a guardianship. The adult is presumed competent, and the burden is on the petitioning person to demonstrate incapacity with medical testimony, financial records, and descriptions of the person's recent activities that show he or she no longer can care for himself.

Any competent person can serve as guardian, but most often relatives fill the role. A person can nominate who his or her guardian should be by estate planning done while the person is competent. The guardian of an adult or a child owes a fiduciary responsibility to the person cared for, called the "ward." The guardian must act for the ward's best interests, and not for his own. The Probate Court supervises the guardian's activities by monitoring yearly accounts that the guardian is required to submit, and by hearing motions on any contested matters during the pendency of the guardianship. Guardians of estates are required to post insurance bonds for the faithful execution of their duties, and can be personally liable for misusing the ward's funds.



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