PROFESSIONAL GUARDIANS: ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
A professional guardian is exactly what it sounds like: a person whose job is to serve as guardian for people who are legally incapacitated and need a guardianship. Like other guardians, a professional guardian is appointed by a court to watch over an individual’s person and/or property. This can be done either voluntarily or involuntarily after the court decides that the individual needs a guardian because she is not able to take care of herself and/or her property.
There are certainly advantages to having a professional guardian serve instead of a relative or friend of the person who needs a guardian (the “ward”). Unlike individual guardians, professional guardians must meet certain requirements before they can start taking on wards, such as completing at least forty hours of education, posting a bond of at least $50,000 with the clerk of court, and passing background and credit checks. Experienced professional guardians have more knowledge of the duties of guardianship and are more familiar with the court process than most individuals. Many of them are also accustomed to dealing with or, when necessary, ignoring fighting family members to do what is best for the ward.
However, there are also drawbacks to the appointment of a professional guardian over a trusted friend or family member. First, professional guardians, unlike other guardians, do not serve for free; reasonable fees for their time will be paid from the assets of the ward. Second, professional guardians often have dozens of wards and are only required to visit (or send a staff member to visit) each ward in person once every three months. Although non-professional guardians do not have any visitation requirements, most of them are naturally inclined to visit and check on the ward frequently.
Professional guardians are most often appointed in two situations. The first is where the ward does not have any friends or family members who are willing to serve as guardian. The second is the exact opposite scenario; the ward has too many people fighting over who will take care of her and a neutral third party is needed. In these types of cases, professional guardians are the best (or only) option. But remember that you have the power to designate the person who you wish to be your guardian, or even avoid guardianship altogether, through lifetime planning.