Guardianship is the legal term for when a court appoints someone to supervise the activities of another.
Guardianships of minors and minors’ estates can be granted to someone other than the biological parents 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 provides for the care of children whose parents cannot do so without assistance. “
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.
Any competent person can serve as guardian, but most often relatives fill the role. An adult can nominate who they would like to be the guardian of their children by estate planning done while the parent is competent. The guardian of 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 their 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.