Enforcing Guardian Responsibilities Through Litigation
If you know someone cared for by a guardian, and the guardian is not fully caring for the person, is there anything you can do to help? Absolutely. Enforcing guardian responsibilities falls under a type of legal practice called probate litigation, which is a primary focus of my practice at the Dave Burns Law Office.
What Are a Guardian’s Responsibilities?
A guardian appointed by a Minnesota probate court has legal responsibility to care for a protected person, who is referred to in statutes as the ward. The guardian’s responsibilities are spelled out by the court when the guardian is appointed. While the court order sometimes lists specific responsibilities, more often the guardian is charged generally with the duty to provide everything needed for the ward’s care and comfort, including food, shelter, health care, and social requirements. Specific requirements are spelled out in Minnesota statutes as well.
How Are a Guardian’s Duties Enforced?
Annual Report and Process for Review
The guardian is supervised by the probate court on an ongoing basis. An annual report must be filed with the court and provided to the ward and any other interested person designated by the court record. The report must include specific information required by statute, including:
- The current mental, physical, and social condition of the ward;
- Living arrangements, including addresses, of the ward during the reporting period;
- Any restrictions imposed on the ward’s communication and visitation rights and the reasons for those restrictions;
- Medical and other services provided to the ward and the guardian’s statement as to the adequacy of those services;
- Recommendations about the need for continued care and any changes needed.
After the annual report is filed, the ward or any interested person may submit a statement to the court disputing statements or conclusions in the report and also may petition the court for an order protecting the ward’s interests or ordering other relief. The court has the authority to appoint a visitor to review the report, interview the ward or guardian, and make an appropriate investigation.
If the annual report is not filed within 60 days of the required date, the probate court will issue an order for the guardian to show cause. The court has a system in place to monitor guardianships, including requirements for filing and review of annual reports. If a guardian does not comply with the legal requirements, the court may remove the guardian.
For purposes of questioning the annual report and petitioning the court, an interested person is defined by Minnesota law as:
- The ward or protected person;
- A nominated or appointed guardian or conservator;
- The legal representative of the ward;
- The spouse, parent, adult children and siblings, or if none of those persons is living or can be located, the next of kin of the ward;
- An adult who has lived with the ward for more than six months;
- An attorney for the ward;
- A government or social services agency providing benefits or to which application for benefits has been made;
- A representative of a state ombudsman's office or a federal protection and advocacy program that has notified the court that it has a matter regarding the ward;
- A health care agent or proxy appointed pursuant to a health care directive, living will, or other similar document enforceable in Minnesota;
- Any other person designated by the court.
Petition By An Interested Person
In addition to filing a dispute or petition in conjunction with the guardian’s annual report, Minnesota law permits any interested person — as defined above — to petition the probate court at any time to request termination or modification of the court order appointing the guardian. The court has the authority to make any order that is determined to be in the best interests of the ward and grant any other appropriate relief. The focus of the court always will be ensuring the ward’s support, care, education, health, and welfare.
Challenging a Guardian’s Annual Report or Enforcing Guardian Duties
If you qualify as an interested person and have reason to believe that a guardian is not fulfilling the court-ordered responsibilities or that the annual report inaccurately represents the ward’s circumstances, you can file a statement or petition with the probate court. In all cases, it is advisable and in the ward’s best interest for you to consult with an experienced, knowledgeable probate litigation attorney before filing a statement or petition with the court.
Whether a petition is filed in conjunction with the annual report or separately, the court will fully investigate all the circumstances before rendering a decision. A visitor may be appointed to interview the ward or guardian, investigate the situation, and report back to the court. The court will hold a hearing, where interested persons may present evidence and testimony about the ward’s circumstances, the guardian’s performance and capacity to care for the ward, and any other facts relevant to the court’s decision. If you attempt to navigate the process and the court proceedings without having the benefit of experienced legal counsel, the court’s ability to gain a full understanding of the circumstances could be impaired, which could significantly affect outcome of the case.
Talk With a Trusted Minnesota Probate Attorney About Guardianship Litigation
Probate litigation is a core focus of my practice at the Dave Burns Law Office. As a member of the Minnesota Association for Guardianship and Conservatorship (MAGiC) and the Hennepin and Ramsey County Guardianship and Conservatorship Panel, I have extensive knowledge of law and procedures governing guardianships and many years of experience with the local courts.
Most importantly, I understand the emotional and procedural difficulties that families and individuals face when trying to address care and legal issues. When you become a client, I treat you and the individual involved with compassion and sensitivity, while strenuously and capably advocating for the individual’s rights and interests.
If you have a concern about whether a guardian is adequately meeting responsibilities imposed by the court and Minnesota laws, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I handle all types of guardianship matters in probate court, including contested and uncontested petitions for guardianship and claims of failure to perform responsibilities by a guardian. I work with clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer