Authority and Responsibilities of a Guardian
The order appointing you and your "letter" of guardianship will describe the extent of your authority, limited or full. The judge will sign a “letter” or “letters” which is a court order that you provide to healthcare providers,, etc. to show that you are the court-ordered guardian of the protected person.
You might have authority to make decisions about certain things, called a limited guardianship. Or you might have authority to make decisions about all aspects of the protected person's life, called a plenary or full guardianship.
You are required to file periodic reports. See our webpage on Reports Required from the Guardian and Conservator.
Your letter of guardianship is proof of your authority to make decisions and act on the protected person's behalf, and you will present this to others — such as healthcare providers, insurance agents, residence administrators, banks, and other individuals and institutions — when that person asks for a record of your authority. Some persons might ask for a photocopy, which you or they can make. Others might need a certified copy. A certified copy is treated like an original and is available only from the court. There is a fee for a certified copy, and you may want to keep a few certified copies handy for convenient use. For information about fees, see our page on Fees.
The original order and letter of guardianship will remain in the court file, and you may access the file any time the court is open.
As soon as possible after your appointment you should notify the people and entities that you will be working with and interested persons, such as:
- the protected person's spouse, children, parents and other family members who were involved in the case;
- the protected person's employer;
- the administrator or manager of the protected person's residential facility;
- the protected person's healthcare providers and caregivers;
- the protected person's education and training providers;
- banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and other financial institutions where the protected person has savings or checking accounts or credit or debit cards;
- stockbrokers and financial advisers;
- companies in which the protected person owns stock;
- insurance agents;
- government agencies, such as Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration and Workers Compensation Fund, from which the protected person receives payments;
- pension plan administrators;
- people who owe the protected person money or to whom the protected person owes money;
- the county recorder in every county in which the protected person owns land;
- the post office, if you want to change the protected person's mail address; and
- anyone involved in a lawsuit by or against the protected person.
- Any person the court has named in the order of appointment whom the guardian must notify of any significant health care or treatment received by the protected person.
To notify someone of your appointment, you should:
- inform the person or entity that you have been appointed;
- give to each a copy of your letter of guardianship and an address, email address and telephone number at which you can be reached;
- ask the person or entity whether they recognize your authority or need something else.
In general, a guardian must carry out their duties, powers, and rights "diligently and in good faith." Utah Code 75-5-312(1)(a).
A limited guardian has the powers listed in the court order. Utah Code Section 75-5-304. Utah law prefers a guardian with limited authority, and the guardian's authority should be tailored to the protected person's needs and abilities. The challenge will be to describe that authority specifically enough to be clear and generally enough to be flexible. Depending on the protected person's needs and abilities, you may need authority to make decisions about:
- health or other professional care, counsel, treatment, or service;
- custody and residence;
- care, comfort, and maintenance;
- training and education; and
- clothing, furniture, vehicles, and other personal effects.
If no conservator has been appointed, you may need authority to make decisions about:
- proceedings to safeguard the protected person's property;
- proceedings to compel a person to support the protected person; and
- receiving money and property for the protected person and applying the money and property for the protected person's support, care, and education.
If you believe that some specific authority is needed, you should describe and request that authority in the petition to appoint a guardian, or you should petition the court to amend your appointment order to include the needed authority. For more information and forms, see our page on Proceedings after the Appointment of a Guardian.
If the court finds that nothing less than a full guardianship is adequate, the court can grant full or plenary authority, and the guardian has the same responsibility for a protected person as a parent has for the parent's minor child, except that the guardian does not have to use his or her own money for the protected person's care and support. If no conservator is appointed, the guardian has some of the responsibilities of a conservator. For a full list of the duties of the guardian, see Utah Code 75-5-312.
Even if the guardian has full authority, they must still encourage the protected person to act on their own behalf. The guardian must consider the protected person's expressed desires and personal values when making decisions. The protected person also retains decision making authority not given to the guardian, including decisions about their religion, friends, whether to marry or divorce, drive, consume legal substances, and other decisions. For more information, see our page on The Protected Person’s Rights. If you believe you need authority for these matters, you should describe and request that authority in the petition to appoint a guardian, or you should ask the court to amend your appointment order to include the needed authority. For more information and forms, see our page on Proceedings after the Appointment of a Guardian or Conservator.
The right to vote cannot be assigned to the guardian in any event. If you believe that the protected person should not have the right to vote, you should request that restriction in the petition to appoint a guardian, or you should petition the court to amend its order to include that restriction. For more information and forms, see our page on Proceedings after the Appointment of a Guardian or Conservator.
The court order may have limited your authority, but even in a full guardianship, there are things that you simply cannot do. For more information, see our page on The Protected Person’s Rights.
If the court has not appointed a conservator, you, as guardian, will have some of that authority and responsibility. Utah Code Section 75-5-312. You should consider petitioning the court to appoint a conservator, either you or someone else, if:
- you, as guardian, do not want responsibility for the protected person's financial affairs;
- the protected person owns real property;
- the protected person owns personal property other than clothing, furniture, vehicles and personal effects;
- the protected person has assets over $50,000;
- the protected is entitled to receive a lump sum payment over $10,000 or annual income over $10,000;
- the protected person has property in other states, on-going business affairs or extensive debts or financial investments;
- someone else depends on the protected person for support; or
- persons and organizations will not recognize your authority to make decisions about the protected person's property and financial affairs.
For more information and forms, see our page on Procedure for Appointing a Conservator for an Adult.
But if the court has not appointed a conservator, you, as guardian, will have some of that authority and responsibility. Specifically,
For more information, see:
Within 90 days after your appointment, file an inventory of the estate with the court.
File an annual financial accounting with the court.
File with the court a final accounting when the guardianship ends, such as if the protected person dies or regains capacity or the guardianship is moved to another state or if you resign or are removed.
Identify, locate and take control of the protected person's estate.
Our pages on Identifying the Protected Person's Property.
Collect all income and benefits the protected person is entitled to, and start legal proceedings as needed.
Our page on Identifying the Protected Person's Property.
Manage the protected person's estate to make sure that needs are met throughout his or her expected life.
Our page on Managing the Protected Person's Property.
Specific decision making authority
For more information about some of the guardian's specific decisions, see our pages on:
- Budgeting for the Protected Person
- Choosing a Place for the Protected Person to Live
- Decision Making Standards
- Education, Recreation and Work for the Protected Person
- Asking the Court to Review or Terminate (End) the Guardianship or Conservatorship or to Remove the Guardianship or Conservator
- Healthcare Decisions for the Protected Person
- Keeping the Protected Person's Property Safe
- Moving a Guardianship or Conservatorship
- Personal Needs of the Protected Person
- Planning for the Protected Person's Needs
- The Protected Person's Rights
You cannot give to someone else the authority that the court gives to you, but you may consult whomever you wish. Consulting with family members and getting professional advice is usually helpful, but the decision, after considering any advice that is given, must be yours. If you consult with someone else, you should maintain the protected person's confidentiality and disclose only what is necessary to help the protected person.
If for some reason — perhaps your illness or absence — you are temporarily unable to make and communicate decisions for the protected person, you may prepare a power of attorney for someone to make the decisions on your behalf. The power of attorney may last for up to six months, but no longer. For more information and forms, see our page on Delegating a Parent's or Guardian's Powers to an Attorney-in-Fact.
If you no longer want to serve as guardian or are no longer able to serve, you should resign and have a replacement appointed. For more information and forms, see our page on Asking the Court to Review or Terminate (End) the Guardianship or Conservatorship or to Remove the Guardianship or Conservator.