Identifying the Protected Person's Property

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If the protected person has a separate guardian and conservator, the conservator is responsible for identifying and taking control of the protected person's estate and filing an inventory with the court. Otherwise, this responsibility is the guardian's.


Mail and email

You may need to decide whether and how much control to take of the protected person's mail and email. Do so only after very careful consideration. You do not want to invade the protected person's privacy any more than is necessary, and you do not want to isolate the protected person. Communicating with family and friends is very important to most people, and isolation removes that connection. Isolation also puts the protected person at risk of being harmed. On the other hand, mail and email may contain a lot of information you need to know about, like assets and debts or bills that need to be paid. And you may need to intercept mail, email and telephone solicitations that prey upon vulnerable adults.

If you need to have the protected person's mail sent to you, contact the post office and be sure to deliver any personal mail to the protected person as soon as possible. To access the protected person's email, you will need the user ID and password.


Identify and collect income and benefits

As soon as possible after your appointment, you should find out what income and benefits the protected person is receiving or has a right to receive. Some types of income the protected person may be receiving or may have a right to receive include:

  • government benefits such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, workers compensation and disability and welfare benefits;
  • Medicaid benefits for long term nursing care;
  • insurance benefits;
  • wages, severance pay, or disability, vacation, or sick leave owed to the protected person;
  • pension payments;
  • settlements from divorce, injury or other lawsuits;
  • payment of debts owed to the protected person, including payments from real property contracts; and
  • money from trusts, rental income and annuities.

How to make claims for payment is beyond the scope of this page. The Social Security Administration (ssa.gov), Department of Veterans Affairs (va.gov) and Railroad Retirement Board (rrb.gov) require that you be appointed as representative payee to collect benefits on the protected person's behalf, at least in some circumstances. To find out how to become representative payee, contact the administration that pays the benefits.

Notify persons and organizations that make or should make payments to the protected person that you have been appointed by the court; provide them with a copy of your letter of appointment; ask whether they require anything other than a copy of your letter to recognize your authority. If the person or organization refuses to pay the income or benefits to you, even after you have met all of their requirements, you may need to start legal proceedings to compel the payments.


Identify, locate and take control of property

You should also identify and locate the protected person's assets. There may be some assets that you don't know about. Some types of assets to look for include:

  • cash;
  • un-cashed checks and refunds;
  • bank accounts (including checking, savings, and certificates of deposit);
  • stocks and bonds;
  • promissory notes (IOUs);
  • business interests;
  • life, health, home, long term care and other insurance policies;
  • real property, including houses, land, ranches, and mineral rights;
  • personal property such as furniture, artwork, valuable collections, antiques and jewelry;
  • vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, campers and RVs.

Talk with the protected person; s/he may be able to describe what property, money and investments s/he has. The protected person's mail, email and important papers may include account statements and other documents that will tell you about the protected person's assets. The protected person's past tax returns should tell you from whom s/he was receiving income, and may lead you to additional accounts and other property.

If the protected person has an accountant or tax preparer, that person may be able to give you information about the protected person's property. If the protected person has a will, the lawyer who prepared it might have a list of the protected person's property — at least as of the time the will was prepared. Family members may also be a good source of information.

You should check the protected person's safe deposit box, which may contain stock certificates, certificates of deposit, and other valuable items. If you do not know whether the protected person has a safe deposit box, ask at the banks where s/he has accounts.

When you first open the safe deposit box, you can request that a bank officer go with you and prepare a list of what is inside the box. If the protected person is renting a box with someone else, you should also have that person look at what is inside when you first open it. Items belonging to the protected person should be separated from those belonging to the other person.

You may need to search for hiding places to locate valuables.

As with income, notify the persons and organizations that possess the protected person's property that you have been appointed by the court; provide them with a copy of your letter of appointment; ask whether they require anything other than a copy of your letter to recognize your authority. If the person or organization refuses to deliver the money or property to you, even after you have met all of their requirements, you may need to start legal proceedings to compel delivery.

If you think anyone has concealed, embezzled or improperly sold the protected person's money or property you should ask the court to order the person to appear and be questioned. If the court finds that the person has concealed, embezzled or improperly sold the protected person's money or property, the court will order the person to deliver the property or its value to you. Utah Code Section 75-5-433.

The part of the protected person's estate that you are responsible for does not include money and property held by a trust, Utah Code Section 75-5-418, but it does include money from a trust once it is paid to the protected person. If you are also the trustee of the trust, you are responsible for the trust, but in a separate capacity.


Make an inventory

Once you have identified and located the protected person's property, you must make an inventory of it, including the value of the property. There is no rule for how to describe property in the inventory. You will want to be thorough and reasonably detailed, but without too much minutiae. You can combine similar items of personal property into a general description, such as "household furnishings" or "tools" or "camping equipment." List vehicles separately, and, if there are valuable items, such as an expensive antique or piece of machinery, you should list that item separately too. Assets such as bank accounts, mutual funds, and publicly traded stock should be easy to value. You can use the most recent taxable value as determined by the county assessor to estimate the value of real property. For more information and Forms, see our page on Reports Required of the Guardian and Conservator.


File the inventory with the court

You must file the inventory with the court within 90 days after your appointment. If you discover more property later, file an amended inventory. For more information and Forms, see our page on Reports Required of the Guardian and Conservator.


Page Last Modified: 6/3/2013
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