When is a Guardianship Terminated?
In Ohio, a guardianship of the estate is terminated whenever the need for the guardianship no longer exists; this may be because the ward has regained the legal capacity to manage their own finances, because the ward has passed away, or because the assets in the ward's estate are so minimal that it is no longer necessary to have a guardian administer them. While marriage of a ward would terminate guardianship over the ward's person, it does not terminate guardianship over the estate.
If a ward's estate contains less than $25,000 in value, the Probate Court may determine that termination is appropriate. At that point, the court may direct that cash be deposited in a bank or other depository that is authorized to accept fiduciary funds in the name of an appropriate person the court has designated. If the assets in question do not consist of funds, the Probate Court may order that they be delivered to a suitable person that the court designates. That person must then follow the court's order as to disposition of the assets.
For whatever reason the court deems the guardianship no longer necessary, the guardian must file a final account before the guardianship will be terminated. Of course, in some cases, continued guardianship is still in the ward's best interests, but the guardian him- or herself must be removed.
Why Would the Probate Court Remove a Guardian?
The guardian has one primary job: to manage the ward's financial affairs in a way that is in the ward's best interests. If the guardian is unable or unwilling to do that job, he or she will have to be removed in favor of somebody who can better fulfill their responsibilities.
As a guardian, you don't have to deliberately commit malfeasance in order to be relieved of your duties, but that's certainly one way to do it. If you violate the interests of the trust, or engage in fraudulent conduct, you can be removed as guardian. The Probate Court can also remove a guardian for habitual drunkenness, neglect of duty, or incompetency, or for any reason that the law permits. If the court decides to remove a guardian for any of these reasons, it must give the guardian ten days' notice.
Since a guardian is bound to act in the ward's best interests, financially speaking, if the guardian has financial interests that are opposed to those of the ward, and fails to put the ward's interests before his or her own, that would certainly justify removal. A guardian also is forbidden from having personal dealings with the ward's estate, such as investing the ward's assets in the guardian's business.
A guardian can also be removed for neglect of his or her duties, even if unintentional. If you are a guardian and fail to file an inventory or account on time, and the court notifies you that the filing is delinquent, you must correct the problem within thirty days. If you don't, you can be removed as guardian, and you will not be able to receive compensation for your work as guardian unless the court determines that the delay in filing was both necessary and reasonable.
Liability Issues for Ohio Guardians
In addition to removal, there are a number of acts or omissions for which an Ohio guardian can be held personally liable. These include damages resulting from the guardian's failure to fulfill their fiduciary duty (put the ward's interests first); damages for failure to properly invest estate assets; and any loss caused by the guardian's personal use of the ward's property. With some exceptions, however, a guardian is not personally liable of a debt of the ward.
In order to avoid liability issues or even removal as guardian, it's best for a guardian to be represented by an experienced Ohio probate lawyer who can offer guidance and help ensure that accounts and inventories are prepared correctly and filed promptly.
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