Bare Bones Guardianship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve M. King

Judge

Tarrant County Probate Court Number One

Fort Worth, Texas

Revision Date – February 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Bar of Texas

ADVANCED GUARDIANSHIP COURSE

March 8, 2008

Dallas

 

CHAPTER 2

 


Steve M. King, Judge

Probate Court Number One

Tarrant County, Texas

probatecourt1@tarrantcounty.com

817.212.7238                                                                                                                         fax: 817.884.3178

 

PERSONAL

Born Graham, Young County, Texas

Married since 1974 to Julia Milford King; Two children: Cassandra & Mason

B.A. with honors (Government), The University of Texas 1974

J.D., Baylor University School of Law 1976

 

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

Private Law Practice - Fort Worth, Texas, 1977 – 1994

Judge, Tarrant County Probate Court Number One, 1994 – Present

Presiding Judge, Statutory Probate Courts of Texas, 2002 - 2005

 

PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

AARP Public Policy Institute – National Symposium on Guardianship Monitoring, Washington, D.C. 2007

National College of Probate Judges, President (2005-2006), Life Member

State Bar of Texas; Real Estate, Probate and Trust Section; Judicial Section, Uniform Trust Code Revision Committee, Texas Guardianship Manual Revision Committee; Probate Code Revision Committee

Tarrant County Bar Association

Tarrant County Probate Bar Association, Founding Director, President,

Tarrant County and Texas Bar Foundations, Fellow

Texas College of Probate Judges; National College of Probate Judges, Faculty

Texas Judicial Council - Workgroup on Probate Data Elements, Chair

Texas Supreme Court Judicial Committee for Information Technology, Member, 1997-1999, Liaison Member 2002-2007

Wingspan National Guardianship Conference, 2001, Conferee

Wingspan National Guardianship Implementation Conference, 2004, Conferee

 

LAW-RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABA Commission on Law & Aging/American Psychological Association/National College of Probate Judges - Capacity Assessment Handbook (Advisory Panel)

Conference of State Court Administrators, Midyear Meeting 2007 – “Safeguarding Incapacitated Persons: Monitoring Individual Cases and Monitoring the System.”

Connecticut Bar Association - Symposium - Future of the Connecticut Probate Courts 2003; Symposium - Due Process in the Probate Process (2006)

Center for American and International Law Wills & Probate Institute, Plano 2004 (Show Cause & Compliance)

National Center for State Courts, “Guardianship Monitoring” in Future Issues in State Courts 2008

National College of Probate Judges, 2000 (Mediation Programs) 2002 (Stress Relief for Judges) 2003 (National Survey of Probate Court Jurisdiction), 2004 (Innovations in Probate Courts), 2005 (Technology)

San Antonio Estate Planners Council, Docket Call in Probate Court 2005, 2007 (Ad Litem Manual)

State Bar of Texas

Advanced Personal Injury Law Course 2003 (Jurisdiction), 2004 (Probate Cases in Pers. Injury Practice); Advanced Probate and Estate Planning Course, 1998 (Ad Litems, Judges’ Panel), 2000 (Ad Litems), 2001 (Judges’ Panel), 2002 (Jurisdiction), 2004 (Expert Witnesses), 2006 (DNA Evidence in Heirship), 2007 (Finality of Probate Orders for Appeal); Building Blocks of Wills, Estates and Probate 2008 (Probate Procedures and Alternatives); Guardianship Course 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 (Ad Litems) 2008 (Qualification and Administration); REPTL Section Luncheon, Austin 2001(Legislative Update)

South Texas College of Law Wills and Probate Institute, Houston 2004, “Hot Topics in Probate and Guardianship”

Southwestern Legal Foundation Wills and Probate Institute, Dallas 2000 (Less Restrictive Alternatives to Guardianship)

Tarrant County Probate Bar - Probate Litigation Seminar: 2002 (Expert Witnesses), 2003, 2004 (Judges’ Panel) 2005 (DNA Evidence and Heirship); 2006 (Case Update); Nuts and Bolts of Probate Practice 2006 (Judge’s Panel), 2007 (Practice in Probate Court One)

Tarrant County Bar Association Centennial History 1904-2004 (Contributing Writer)

Texas Association of Court Administrators, Dallas 2005 (Case Management)

Texas College of Probate Judges Spring Workshops 1995-2007 (Inventories and Accountings, Judicial Ethics, Ad Litems, Compliance) Annual Meeting 1996-2007 (Case Update)

Texas Hospital Association, Issues in Psychiatric Services, San Antonio 2002 (Less Restrictive Alternatives to Guardianship)

Texas Wesleyan School of Law/ Stetson University School of Law 2003 – “Special Needs Trusts- A View from the Bench”

University of Texas, Intermediate Estate Planning, Guardianship and Elder Law Conference, Galveston - 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 (Ad Litems, Mock Guardianship Trial, Guardianship Plans)

 

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

President, Chair, Archival Holdings, Inc.

Parliamentarian 1988, 1991, Baptist General Convention of Texas

Counsellor, Baylor University Law Alumni Association

Trustee, Chair, Vice-Chair, Buckner International (formerly Buckner Baptist Benevolences), 1981 - Present

Director, Chair, 2003-2006 Vice-Chair 2002-2003, Buckner Foundation

Trustee, Fort Belknap Archives, Inc.

President, Outriders of the Fort Worth Herd, 1999-Present

Author, “Guardianship Monitoring,” Future Trends in State Courts 2008, National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg, Virginia

Author, Tarrant County Courthouse: A Walking Tour, Fort Worth, 1996

Afterword, Reminiscences of the Early Days of Fort Worth (Capt. J. C. Terrell), TCU Press, Fort Worth, 1999

Contributor, The Golden Age of the Texas Courthouse (video), Texas Foundation for the Arts, 2004

Contributor, The New Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association, Austin, 1996


Guardianship

(From the Ad Litem’s Perspective)

 

§682 Application to Appoint Guardian                                                                         ‘§683 letter’ rec’d (§683)

                                                                                                                                                                                    ˜

                ˜                                                                                                                          CI §§648,683Who initiates?GAL

  Ct Appts AAL       │—Is GAL needed ?     Yes                                                                         CI Apptd                                  

            §646                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                  No                                                                                            CI Files Appl                             ˜

                                                                                                                                                          └—————————————————————│————GAL Apptd §§683,645

                           └————————————————Hearing Date Set                                                                            

                                                                                             and Conf Ltr Sent                    ————         │ —————        GAL files Appl

                                                                                                             ˜                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                 Dr’s Ltr/DMR? —No                                                

                                                                                                                                   ˜                                                                   

                                                                                                             ˜                   ˜                                                                   

                                                                                                           Yes             Exam                                                               

                ˜                                                                             CME Filed §687a—┘                                                                  

AAL Files Answer  ------------——————————————                              ┌-—————┘                                      

                                                                                                                              ˜                     ˜                                                                 ˜

                                                                                Assessment by AAL                                  Assessment by CI———┘          Assessment by GAL

                                                                                                                                                                                             ˜                         

                                                └——————————                                                       §§601(1), 647, 685: Consider Less Restrictive—-----------———————————┘

                                                                                                                                                      Alternatives (§602) and act appropriately                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                                      ˜                                                   

EPO, TRO, Temp Inj’n, ———Yes———Immediate Action Needed? ——No——-----—                                  

Temp Grdn §875; Rcvrship                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                ˜                                                                                         

                    AAL “Amplified”—————— Yes — Active Contest by AAL? ————No—                                        

                        Answer                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                ˜                                                                                                                                                         

Active Contest Considerations                                         Set on Uncontested————————┘                                    

Secy for Costs/ Mtn to Show Authority/                            Docket, send Conf Ltr                                                                       

IME/ Mtn Appt Staty Prob J/ DCO/                                                                                                                                                      ˜

Discovery /Jury Demand/ Mediation                                                                ————————————————————  GAL Report

Mtn in Limine/ Mtn to Disqual / Appeal                           

                                                                                             └——————————————————˜

                                                                                             Pauper’s Affidavit?

                                                                                             TRCP 145

                ˜                                                                                             ˜

IME Mtn/ Notice. Hearing——————Yes———————    IME?

IME Perf’d/ CME filed                                                                                                                       ┌ poster Citation. Personal

    §687 9b 0                                                                                          ˜                                             │ Svc on Prop Ward/ Svc on

                                                                Citation, Service and Notice §633————                │ “Laundry List”/ Notices

                                                                                                                                                             │ Waivers etc. §§673, 676, 677

                                                                                                                                             └ Preference of Ward §§680, 689

                                                                                                ˜                                                                             |

                                                                                                §633 Affidavit Filed              ———————————

˜

CI Report Filed §648A(c)

˜

                Matter Dismissed———                Proof—————Hearing & Testimony

                                                             Fails               §§641, 649, 684, 685, 686, 703

                                                                                                      

                                                                                                             ˜

                                                                             Order Appointing Guardian §§683, 690, 693

                               

                                                                                                             ˜

                                                                                             Bond & Oath §699————— Safekeeping “Freeze” Agreement?

                                                                                                                                                                             §703(e),(f)

                                                                                                             ˜

                                                                                             Issuance of Letters §659

                                                                                                             ˜

                                └—————GAL, AAL apply for fees and discharge §§645, 646, 665A

 

˜

Administration Begins


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Guardianship (From the Ad Litem’s Perspective)................................................................. Frontispiece

 

I. INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................................. 9

 

II. STARTING THE JOURNEY.............................................................................................................. 9

A.   Let’s Start At The Very Beginning........................................................................................... 9

B.   Definitions............................................................................................................................... 9

1.   ESTATE” or “GUARDIANSHIP ESTATE............................................................................ 9

2.   GUARDIAN...................................................................................................................... 9

3.   INCAPACITATED PERSON.............................................................................................. 9

4.   MINOR............................................................................................................................ 9

5.   PROPOSED WARD.......................................................................................................... 9

6.   WARD............................................................................................................................. 9

C.   Is Immediate Action Required?.............................................................................................. 10

D.   Appointment of Guardian....................................................................................................... 10

1.   GUARDIANS OF MINORS................................................................................................. 10

2.   GUARDIANS OF PERSONS OTHER THAN MINORS.......................................................... 10

E.   Designation of Guardian......................................................................................................... 10

1.   BY PARENT FOR MINOR CHILD....................................................................................... 10

2.   BY CAPACITATED PERSON FOR SELF............................................................................. 10

3.   REVOCATION................................................................................................................... 10

4.   SELECTION OF GUARDIAN BY MINOR............................................................................ 10

F.   Disqualification....................................................................................................................... 10

G.   Procedure for Appointment of Guardian................................................................................. 10

1.   APPLICATION.................................................................................................................. 10

2.   APPLICATION FOR AGING-OUT MR MINOR................................................................... 10

3.   PRIVATE PROFESSIONAL GUARDIANS AND PUBLIC GUARDIANS.................................. 11

H.   Successor Guardians for Wards of Guardianship Programs or Governmental Entities............. 11

I.    Jurisdiction and Venue........................................................................................................... 11

1.   JURISDICTION................................................................................................................. 11

2.   ASSIGNMENT OF STATUTORY PROBATE JUDGE............................................................ 11

3.   MATTERS APPERTAINING TO OR INCIDENT TO AN ESTATE........................................ 11

4.   PERSONAL INJURY ACTIONS LIMITED........................................................................... 11

5.   TRANSFER OF GUARDIANSHIP PROCEEDINGS............................................................... 11

6.   VENUE.............................................................................................................................. 11

J.   Temporary Guardianship........................................................................................................ 12

K.   Less Restrictive Alternatives.................................................................................................. 12

1.   AVOIDING GUARDIANSHIP OF THE PERSON......................................................................... 12

2.   ADVANCED MEDICAL DIRECTIVES...................................................................................... 13

3.   AVOIDING GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ESTATE......................................................................... 13

4.   LIMITING EFFECT OF GUARDIANSHIP.................................................................................. 13

 

III.  PRACTICAL POINTERS............................................................................................................. 13

A.   Basic Checklist for the Long Haul.......................................................................................... 13

B.   Capacity Assessment.............................................................................................................. 14

C.   Ad Litems: A Necessary Evil or Your Best Ally?..................................................................... 14

D.   Management Trusts................................................................................................................ 15

1.   CREATION....................................................................................................................... 15

2.   MANDATORY PROVISIONS............................................................................................. 15

3.   ADMINISTRATION........................................................................................................... 15

4.   QUALIFICATION AS SUPPLEMENTAL NEEDS TRUST...................................................... 15

5.   DISCHARGE OF GUARDIAN OF ESTATE AND CONTINUATION OF TRUST..................... 15

6.   AMENDMENT, MODIFICATION OR REVOCATION.......................................................... 15

7.   TERMINATION OF TRUST............................................................................................... 15

8.   DISTRIBUTION OF TRUST PROPERTY............................................................................ 15

E.   Notices: Jurisdictional Foundation and The Laundry List........................................................ 15

1.   POSTER CITATION.......................................................................................................... 15

2.   PERSONAL SERVICE........................................................................................................ 15

3.   THE LAUNDRY LIST......................................................................................................... 15

 

IV.  PROCEDURAL MATTERS........................................................................................................... 16

A.   Court Personnel..................................................................................................................... 16

1.   THE CLERK...................................................................................................................... 16

2.   PROBATE” COURTS........................................................................................................ 16

3.   COURT INVESTIGATOR................................................................................................... 16

B.   Settings.................................................................................................................................. 17

C.   Paperwork.............................................................................................................................. 17

D.   Hearing Day: Some General and Practical Observations......................................................... 17

E.   The Surety Bond..................................................................................................................... 18

Caveat: TEX. FIN. CODE §101.102................................................................................... 18

F.   Qualifyng as Guardian............................................................................................................ 18

Caveat: Letters Expire...................................................................................................... 19

 

V.  ADMINISTRATION...................................................................................................................... 19

Note: Ongoing Monitoring................................................................................................ 19

A.   Powers and Duties of Guardians.............................................................................................. 19

1.   GUARDIAN OF THE PERSON............................................................................................ 19

A.   Specified Powers.......................................................................................................... 19

B.   Expectations of the Guardian of the Person...................................................................... 19

C.   Medical Issues – Life Sustaining Procedures.................................................................... 20

D.   Medical Issues – Psychiatric Care................................................................................... 20

E.   Medical Issues – Emergency Detention........................................................................... 20

F.   Medical Issues – Administration of Psychoactive Medication............................................. 20

G.   Limitation of Powers..................................................................................................... 20

H.   Divorce Proceedings..................................................................................................... 21

I.    Funeral........................................................................................................................ 21

2.   GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE............................................................................................ 21

A.   Power to Act Without Court Authority............................................................................ 21

B.   General Description of Powers....................................................................................... 21

C.   Responsibilities of the Guardian of the Estate................................................................... 21

D.   Taking Possession........................................................................................................ 21

E.   Limitations on the Guardian’s Authority........................................................................... 22

F.   Liability of Guardian for Ward’s Conduct........................................................................ 22

G.   Tax Issues in Guardianship............................................................................................ 22

B.   The Inventory, Appraisement & List of Claims...................................................................... 22

C.   Claims - Generally.................................................................................................................. 23

1.   AUTHENTICATION........................................................................................................... 23

2.   CLAIM BY GUARDIAN...................................................................................................... 24

3.   NO CLASSIFICATION OF CLAIMS................................................................................... 24

4.   ORDER OF PAYMENT...................................................................................................... 24

5.   GUARDIAN CANNOT PURCHASE CLAIMS........................................................................ 24

6.   NOTIFICATION TO VETERANS ADMINISTRATION ........................................................ 24

7.   FAILURE TO ENDORSE CLAIM........................................................................................ 24

NOTICE TO CREDITORS AND CLAIMS IN A NUTSHELL............................................... 24

D.   Spending the Ward’s Money: Preliminary Considerations....................................................... 24

1.   EXPENDITURES ALLOWED WITHOUT COURT APPROVAL.............................................. 24

2.   MONTHLY ALLOWANCE.................................................................................................. 24

3.   SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS.......................................................................................... 24

4.   REIMBURSEMENT............................................................................................................ 25

5.   RATIFICATION................................................................................................................ 25

E.   Support, Maintenance and Education of the Ward................................................................... 25

1.   WHERE THE GUARDIAN IS PARENT OF A MINOR WARD................................................ 25

2.   WHERE THE GUARDIAN IS NOT THE PARENT OF A MINOR/WARD................................ 25

3.   WARD’S DEPENDENTS: EDUCATION AND MAINTENANCE............................................ 25

PRACTICE NOTE - Invasion of Principal.......................................................................... 26

F.   Gifts....................................................................................................................................... 26

1.   GENERAL RULE: NO COMMON LAW POWER TO MAKE GIFTS....................................... 26

2.   TAX-MOTIVATED GIFTS................................................................................................. 26

3.   INSPECTION OF ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS........................................................ 26

G.   Abandonment of Property....................................................................................................... 26

H.   Investments and Loans........................................................................................................... 26

1.   INVESTMENT OF SURPLUS REQUIRED........................................................................... 26

2.   LIABILITY FOR FAILURE TO INVEST.............................................................................. 26

3.   LEGAL OPINION ON LOANS............................................................................................ 26

4.   SAFE HARBOR” INVESTMENTS (PERMISSIBLE WITHOUT COURT APPROVAL)............. 26

5.   RETENTION OF ASSETS.................................................................................................. 26

6.   INVESTMENT PLANS....................................................................................................... 26

I.    Sales....................................................................................................................................... 27

REAL PROPERTY SALES PROCEDURE IN A NUTSHELL................................................ 27

1.   GUARDIAN'S PURCHASE OF WARD'S PROPERTY............................................................ 27

2.   PERISHABLE PROPERTY TO BE SOLD............................................................................. 27

3.   PERMISSIBLE GROUNDS FOR SALES.............................................................................. 27

4.   REQUIRED TERMS........................................................................................................... 27

5.   PRIVATE OR PUBLIC SALES............................................................................................. 27

6.   SALES BY TEMPORARY GUARDIAN................................................................................. 27

7.   SALES OF PERSONAL PROPERTY.................................................................................... 27

8.   APPROVAL OF SALE WITHOUT HEARING....................................................................... 27

9.   COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED......................................................................................... 27

10.  COMMONLY OWNED PROPERTY.................................................................................... 27

J.   Renting and Leasing Estate Property...................................................................................... 28

1.   ONE YEAR OR LESS: NO COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED................................................. 28

2.   MORE THAN A YEAR: COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED...................................................... 28

3.   FAILURE TO RENT........................................................................................................... 28

4.   MINERAL LEASES............................................................................................................ 28

K.   Borrowing............................................................................................................................... 28

L.   The Duty to Account............................................................................................................... 28

1.   ANNUAL ACCOUNTS........................................................................................................ 28

2.   FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE............................................................................. 28

M.  Termination of Guardianships of the Person........................................................................... 29

N.   Monitoring/ Restoration of Ward/ Modification of Guardianship.............................................. 30

O.  Continuing Jurisdiction After Death of Ward......................................................................... 30

 

VI.  MONEY....................................................................................................................................... 30

A.   Compensating the Guardian................................................................................................... 30

1.   GENERAL RULE................................................................................................................ 30

2.   LIMITATIONS ON COMPENSATION................................................................................ 30

3.   COMPENSATION ABOVE THE STATUTORY FORMULA.................................................... 31

4.   WHEN COMPENSATION TO BE ALLOWED...................................................................... 31

5.   FORFEITURE OF COMPENSATION.................................................................................. 31

B.   Attorney’s Fees...................................................................................................................... 32

1.   BASIC PREMISE............................................................................................................... 32

2.   REASONABLE AND NECESSARY FEES............................................................................. 32

3.   APPLICATION FOR PAYMENT......................................................................................... 32

4.   PUBLISHED POLICIES...................................................................................................... 32

5.   ELEMENTS TO DETERMINE REASONABLENESS............................................................. 32

6.   HOURLY RATES............................................................................................................... 32

7.   EXPENSES........................................................................................................................ 32

8.   RED FLAGS...................................................................................................................... 32

9.   FORFEITURE OF ATTORNEY’S FEES............................................................................... 32

10.  INCAPACITATED CLIENT................................................................................................ 32

11.  MALFEASANCE OF GUARDIAN........................................................................................ 33

12.  REMOVED GUARDIAN..................................................................................................... 33

13.  SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE.................................................................................................... 33

14.  GUARDIAN’S OWN CLAIM............................................................................................... 33

15.  UNNECESSARY LITIGATION........................................................................................... 33

16.  DUAL COMPENSATION: ATTORNEY/GUARDIAN............................................................. 33

17.  SPECIFIC AREAS OF CONCERN ON FEE APPLICATIONS................................................. 33

C.   Ad Litem Fees........................................................................................................................ 34

 

VII.  DEATH, RESIGNATION AND REMOVAL.................................................................................. 34

A.   Death..................................................................................................................................... 34

B.   Resignation............................................................................................................................ 34

1.   METHOD.......................................................................................................................... 34

2.   ACCEPTANCE................................................................................................................... 34

3.   DISCHARGE..................................................................................................................... 34

C.   Removal................................................................................................................................. 34

1.   WITHOUT NOTICE........................................................................................................... 34

2.   WITH NOTICE.................................................................................................................. 34

3.   ADDITIONAL GROUNDS FOR REMOVAL......................................................................... 35

 

APPENDICES:

A.      Guardianship Summary.......................................................................................................... 36

B.      Physician’s Certificate of Medical Exam................................................................................... 39

C.      Waiver of Citation and of Right to Serve................................................................................... 42

D.      Application for Appointment of a Guardian of the Person (and Estate)......................................... 43

E.      Powers Requested by Proposed Guardian (Illustrative)............................................................... 45

F.      Motion for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem and Order.......................................................... 46

G.      Letter Confirming Setting........................................................................................................ 48

H.      Affidavit Regarding Notice under §633(d-1).............................................................................. 49

I.       Proof of Facts ...................................................................................................................... 50

J.       Order Appointing Guardian of the Person (and Estate)............................................................... 51

K.      Personal Surety Bond............................................................................................................. 52

L.      Oath of Guardian................................................................................................................... 53

M.     Safekeeping (“Freeze”) Agreement........................................................................................... 54

N.      Court Instructions: Guardian of the Person............................................................................... 55

O.      Court Instructions: Guardian of the Estate ............................................................................... 58

P.      Initial Report: Guardian of the Person ...................................................................................... 63

Q.      Practice Tips from the Probate Court One Investigators............................................................. 67

 


Bare Bones Guardianship

 


I. INTRODUCTION

 

This outline is to give the Texas Practitioner who is not otherwise familiar with the guardianship process a basic reference work when the client comes in to get a guardianship for a family member.

Reference will be made to other works which are otherwise readily available through the State Bar of Texas or on the internet in an attempt to economize on space in this outline.

In addition, this outline will not address contested guardianship proceedings.  Many good works are available on that topic including many presentations at the State Bar Advanced Guardianship Course, Advanced Estate Planning and Probate Course (Litigation Breakout Sessions) and elsewhere.

This outline will attempt to

1. Provide practical pointers on preparing and filing the paperwork required in a guardianship proceeding.

2. Make suggestions on how to conduct a prove-up hearing and dealing with court personnel

3. Supply specifics on fee applications

4. Discuss the Responsibilities of both the guardian of the Person and Guardian of the Estate in administering a guardianship from qualification through closing.

The basic statutes governing guardianship may be found in the Texas Probate Code §§600ff.  Many other statutory references to other provisions follow herein.

 

II. STARTING THE JOURNEY

 

A. Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

1. Before your client comes in: Take a few minutes and read the short summary of the guardianship process found at Appendix “A”:  It is intended for the lay public, and explains the basic process of guardianship.  This will give you an overview of the process.  It is also available in Spanish on the Tarrant County Probate Court website.

It would also be a good idea to give a copy to your clients to help them understand the process.

2. Look at the website of the Probate Court you are dealing with (if they have one).  It should contain policy statements or forms that will make your job simpler.

Many of the forms and materials referenced in these materials may be accessed at www.tarrantcounty.com/eProbate Courts/site/default. asp. Then look under “Forms” and “Guardianship.”

3. Take a look at the Ad Litem Manual on Tarrant County Probate Court One website.  Chances are it will answer any procedural question you might have.

4. Visit with your client (the Applicant)  Gain a fundamental understanding of what has brought about the need to seek a guardianship.  Most people, even if infirm, have a support system to help them get along.  However, at some point, these support systems fail.  The house of cards collapses.  Part of your fact assessment is to try to determine whether the support system is broken or can be repaired and strengthened.

5. Consider E-Filing: While it is nice to go down to the Probate Clerk and visit, it is rarely efficient to do so.  If you really look at how your time is spent (and if you do not regularly walk to the courthouse), e-filing is the most cost-efficient method of filing papers.  At this point, virtually all of the counties with statutory probate courts have adopted e-filing.

 

B.   Definitions

      Definitions are found in TEX. PROB. CODE §601.  It is a good place to which to refer since many of the terms in guardianship are terms of art within a guardianship proceeding.

1.   ESTATE” or “GUARDIANSHIP ESTATE” is the real and personal property of a ward or deceased ward, both as the property originally existed and has, from time to time, changed in form by sale, reinvestment, or otherwise, and as augmented by any accretions and additions to (including any property to be distributed to the representative of the deceased ward by the trustee of a trust that terminates on the ward’s death) or substitutions for the property, and as diminished by any decreases to or distributions from the property.

2.   GUARDIAN” is a person appointed guardian under TEX. PROB. CODE §693, or a temporary or successor guardian. Unless specified otherwise, “guardian” will include both the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate.

3.   INCAPACITATED PERSON” means:

a.    A minor;

b.   An adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, to care for the individual’s own physical health, or to manage the individual’s own financial affairs; or

c.   A person who must have a guardian appointed to receive funds due the person from any governmental source.

4.   MINOR” is a person who is younger than 18, who has never been married or who has not had their disabilities of minority removed.

5.   PROPOSED WARD” is a person alleged to be incapacitated in a guardianship proceeding.

6.   WARD” is a person for whom a guardian has been appointed.

C. Is Immediate Action Required?

If there is an indication of imminent harm to the proposed ward, the following actions/procedures should be among your first considerations, all of which are described in more detail infra:

1.   Emergency Protective Order - TEX. HUM. RES. CODE § 48.208;

2.   Temporary Guardianship - TEX. PROB. CODE §875;

3.   Court-Ordered Mental Health Services - §462.001, §571.001, §574.001, TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE;

4.   Emergency Medical Treatment Act - §773.008, TEX. HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE

5.   Surrogate Decision -Making  (“SDM”) – §313.001-.007, TEX. HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE

6.   Medical Power of Attorney - §166.151, TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE

7.   Out-of Hospital DNR (“EMT-DNR”)- §166.081 TEX. HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE

8.   Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates ("Living Will") – §166.031, TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE

 

D. Appointment of Guardian

1.   GUARDIANS OF MINORS - TEX. PROB. CODE §676 - A child’s parents are its natural guardians and may, if necessary, be appointed as guardians of the estate for their minor child.  In cases of separation, divorce or the death of one parent, look to TEX. PROB. CODE §676 for detailed procedures.

2. GUARDIANS OF PERSONS OTHER THAN MINORS - TEX. PROB. CODE §677 - For a person other than a minor, the court must always first consider ward’s best interest in appointing a guardian.  The code establishes a priority of persons to be appointed, starting with the ward’s spouse on down to the best qualified suitable person.

 

E.   Designation of Guardian

1.   BY PARENT FOR MINOR CHILD - TEX. PROB. CODE §677A - The surviving parent of a minor may, by Will or by written declaration, designate a person to be guardian of the person and or estate of the parent’s minor child in the event of the parent’s death or incapacity.  This is, of course, subject to compliance with the Probate Code and a finding of suitability by the court.

2.   BY CAPACITATED PERSON FOR SELF - TEX. PROB. CODE §679 - A person who is not incapacitated may designate in advance whomever he or she wishes to have appointed as his or her guardian and may also disqualify any person not desired as guardian. Properly executed and witnessed self-proving declarations and affidavits are prima facie evidence that the declarant was competent at the time such declaration was executed and that the guardian named will serve the best interest of the ward.

3.   REVOCATION - Such designations may be revokes in the same manner that a Will may be revoked under TEX. PROB. CODE §63.

4.   SELECTION OF GUARDIAN BY MINOR - TEX. PROB. CODE §680 - A minor at least twelve (12) years of age may choose who will be guardian for such child, subject to the approval of the court and a finding the choice is in the best interest of the minor.

 

F.   Disqualification - TEX. PROB. CODE §681 - The following persons may not be appointed guardian:

1.   Minors;

2.   Persons whose conduct is notoriously bad;

3.   Incapacitated persons;

4.   A person who is a party or whose parent is a party to a lawsuit concerning or affecting the welfare of the proposed ward, unless the court:

a.    Determines that the claim of the person who has applied to be appointed guardian is not in conflict with the claim of the proposed ward; or

b.   Appoints a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the proposed ward throughout the litigation;

5.   A person indebted to the proposed ward unless the person pays the debt before appointment;

6.   A person asserting a claim adverse to the proposed ward or the proposed ward’s property;

7.   A person who is incapable of properly and prudently managing and controlling the proposed ward or the proposed ward’s estate;

8.   A person, institution or corporation found unsuitable;

9.   A person disqualified in a declaration under Section 679;

10.  A non-resident person who has not filed with the court the name of a resident agent.

 

G.   Procedure for Appointment of Guardian

1.   APPLICATION - TEX. PROB. CODE §682 - A guardianship starts with a sworn written application filed with a court exercising probate jurisdiction.  Certain elements are mandatory by statute.  The application must give basic identifying information, detail the nature and the degree of the incapacity of the proposed ward; specify the powers to be given the guardian, the limitations on the rights of the ward, and describe any allowances that the ward will receive.  A sample application is included as Appendix C.

2.   APPLICATION FOR AGING-OUT MR MINOR - TEX. PROB. CODE §682A - Particularly for minors with developmental disabilities, an application for guardianship may now be filed within 6 months of the proposed ward’s 18th birthday.

3.   PRIVATE PROFESSIONAL GUARDIANS AND PUBLIC GUARDIANS - TEX. PROB. CODE §§696 - 698 - The Probate Code now makes provision for individuals who are trained and certified as professional guardians or who are employed by, volunteer with or contract with  guardianship programs to be appointed in appropriate circumstances.

a.    Certification - In 2007, the Legislature passed a comprehensive set of statutory provisions, which requires all private professional guardians and agents of public guardianship programs (persons employed by, volunteering with or contracting with guardianship programs) to be certified by examination. TEX. GOVT. CODE §111.0421.

The Guardianship Certification Board, under the auspices of the Office of Court Administration, oversees the training and certification of private professional guardians and agents of public guardians.

b. Registration - The prospective private professional guardian or agent for a public guardian must make an annual application with the clerk for a certificate of registration under TEX. PROB. CODE §697 and comply with the requisite criminal background checks and references, the court certifies or continues the certification of the private professional guardian or agent.

The clerk then transmits the lists of registrants to the Guardianship Certification Board.

 

H.   Successor Guardians for Wards of Guardianship Programs or Governmental Entities - TEX. PROB. CODE §695A - The court will always try to appoint a willing and suitable family member to serve as guardian if possible.  If a professional guardian, whether an individual, an agency or governmental program is serving, and a family member indicates a willingness to serve, if the court finds that the proposed family member or friend is not disqualified from being appointed and that the appointment is in the ward’s best interest, the existing guardians or the court, on it’s own motion, may file an application to appoint the individual as the ward’s successor guardian.

 

I.    Jurisdiction and Venue - TEX. PROB. CODE §§605, 606

1.   JURISDICTION - TEX. PROB. CODE §605 provides for county court jurisdiction regarding probate proceedings. TEX. PROB. CODE §5 of the Code is virtually restated in §606 pertaining to guardianship proceedings for district courts and other courts of record.

TEX. PROB. CODE §606(e) enumerates the matters that a probate court has jurisdiction to hear after the estate of a ward is required to be settled. (see below)

2.   ASSIGNMENT OF STATUTORY PROBATE JUDGE - TEX. PROB. CODE §606(b) - In counties with no statutory probate court or county court at law, in contested guardianship matters, the judge of the county court may, on its own motion, or shall, on any party’s motion, assign a statutory probate court judge to hear the contested portion of the proceeding or transfer the contested portion of the proceeding to the district court.

The County Court continues to administer the uncontested portion.  A statutory probate court judge assigned in this manner brings with her or him all the jurisdiction of a statutory probate court under §§607 & 608.

3. MATTERS APPERTAINING TO OR INCIDENT TO AN ESTATE - TEX. PROB. CODE §607 The statutory probate court has jurisdiction over all matters in which a guardian is a party or which are “appertaining or incident to an estate” which includes appointment of a guardian, issuance of letters of guardianship, all claims by or against a guardianship estate, all actions for trial of title to land and for enforcement of liens on the land, all actions for trial of the right of property, and generally relating to the settlement, partition and distribution of a guardianship estate.

4. PERSONAL INJURY ACTIONS LIMITED - TEX. PROB. CODE §607(e) - The proper venue for an action by or against a personal representative for personal injury, death or property damages is determined under, Civil Practice & Remedies Code §15.007. That Section specifically “trumps” the transfer provision of TEX. PROB. CODE §608. Gonzalez v. Reliant Energy, 159 S.W.3d 615 (Tex. 2005).

5. TRANSFER OF GUARDIANSHIP PROCEEDINGS - TEX. PROB. CODE §608 provides that a judge of a statutory probate court can transfer to his or her court from a district, county or statutory court a cause of action appertaining to or incident to an estate pending in the statutory probate court or in suits by or against the guardian (person or estate) or in which the ward or proposed ward is a party.

6.   VENUE - TEX. PROB. CODE §610.

a.    Incapacitated Adult - A guardianship proceeding can be brought in the county where the proposed ward resides or is found on the date the application is filed.

b.   Minor – Venue for guardian proceedings for a minor can be complicated because of custody issues.

i.    Generally, the application, either for guardianship of the person or the estate, may be brought in the county in which both the minor’s parents reside.

ii.    If the parents live in separate counties, venue is in the county where the sole managing conservator resides, or in the county where the joint managing conservator with the greater period of physical possession of and access to the minor resides.

iii.   If one parent is living and the parent has custody of the minor, venue is proper in the county where that parent resides.

iv.   If both parents are deceased and the minor was in the custody of a deceased parent, venue lies in the county in which the last surviving parent having custody resided.

v.   If both parents died simultaneously, venue is in the county where both deceased parents resided at the time of their simultaneous deaths if they resided in the same county.

vi.   A proceeding for the appointment of a guardian who was appointed by Will may be brought in the county in which the Will was admitted to probate or the county of the appointee’s residence, if the appointee resides in Texas.

 

J.   Temporary Guardianships - TEX. PROB. CODE §875  See the Ad Litem Manual for forms.

1.   When: A temporary guardianship may be granted in an emergency situation where it is necessary to safeguard either the person or property of the proposed ward.  TEX. PROB. CODE §875.  It must truly be “on fire and burning” for most judges to grant a temporary guardianship.

2.   Prerequisites:  Several things must happen before a temporary guardianship hearing may take place:

a.    a sworn, written application must be filed (No more oral applications);

b.   an attorney ad litem must be appointed;

c.   the clerk must issue notice;

d.   service of notice must be accomplished on the proposed ward, the Attorney Ad Litem and the proposed temporary guardian; and

e.    a signed order setting the hearing.

3.   Hearing Date:  This is your one shot. There are no ‘confirmation’ hearings.  The hearing must be held within 10 days of the filing of the application unless extended by agreement for not more than 30 days.

4.   Proof:  Substantial evidence of:

a.    incapacity or minority, and

b.   imminent danger of serious impairment of physical health or safety or serious damage or dissipation to property.

5.   Duration: A temporary guardianship may not last more than 60 days unless the appointment is contested, in which case the appointment can be ordered to run until resolution of the contest. TEX. PROB. CODE §875(k).

If the ‘extension-pending-the-contest’ wasn’t requested within the 60 days of the temporary guardianship and no setting has been requested for the permanent guardianship – the ward will probably be allowed to ‘walk’ and you will probably get to start over again for temporary relief.  Bauer v. State, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 15202 (5th Cir. 2003)

6.   Adjudication of Incapacity:  The 2003 amendments removed the statement that “an order granting a temporary guardianship is not an adjudication of incapacity.” The findings in the order granting a temporary guardianship are now admissible as evidence on the issue.

7.   Order: Because TEX. PROB. CODE §875 does not set forth any “standard powers” for a temporary guardian, the order appointing the temporary guardian must be very specific as to what authority the temporary guardian shall have.  An order granting the Temporary Guardian “all the powers and duties as stated in the Texas Probate Code" confers no authority upon the temporary guardian. Bennett v. Miller, 137 S.W.3d 894, 897 (Tex. App. Texarkana 2004, pet. filed).

 

K.   Less Restrictive Alternatives

By official state policy, the default in guardianships is essentially - no guardianship.  TEX. PROB. CODE §602.  The court and the officers of the court (that would be you) are mandated to seek any less restrictive alternatives to a full guardianship if they exist and are applicable. See the Ad Litem Manual for a more complete explanation.

The legislative mandate, as reflected in TEX. PROB. CODE §602, is that a less restrictive alternative, if available, is to be followed:

A court may appoint a guardian with full authority over an incapacitated person or may grant a guardian limited authority over an incapacitated person as indicated by the incapacitated person's actual mental or physical limitations and only as necessary to promote and protect the well-being of the person. If the person is not a minor, the court may not use age as the sole factor in determining whether to appoint a guardian for the person. In creating a guardianship that gives a guardian limited power or authority over an incapacitated person, the court shall design the guardianship to encourage the development or maintenance of maximum self-reliance and independence in the incapacitated person. TEX. PROB. CODE §602.

 

1. AVOIDING GUARDIANSHIP OF THE PERSON

1.     Emergency Protective Order (“EPO”) - Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.208

2.     Surrogate Decision -Making  (“SDM”) – §313.001-.007, Health and Safety Code

3.     Surrogate Decision Making for Mentally Retarded Persons - §597.041, Health & Safety Code

4.     Emergency Medical Treatment Act - §773.008,  Health and Safety Code

5.     Managing Conservatorships - Ch. 153, Family Code

6.     School Admission Procedures - §25.001(d), Education Code

7.     School Admission Procedures - §25.001(b)(9), Education Code

8.     Court-Ordered Mental Health Services - §462.001, §571.001, §574.001, Health & Safety Code

 

2. ADVANCED MEDICAL DIRECTIVES

9.     Medical Power of Attorney - §166.151, Health & Safety Code

10.   Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates ("Living Will") – §166.031, Health and Safety Code

11.   Out-of Hospital DNR (“EMT-DNR”)- §166.081 Health and Safety Code

12.   The Patient’s Intent, If Known: A statement of End-Stage Planning such as the ‘Five Wishes’ Pamphlet  : www.agingwithdignity.com

 

3. AVOIDING GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ESTATE

13.   Durable Power of Attorney - §481, Probate Code –  §489B, Probate Code

14.   Inter Vivos (“Living”) Trusts - §§111-115, Property Code

15.   Trusts/Testamentary Trusts - §142, Property Code  

16.   Probate Management Trusts - §867, Probate Code 

17.   Special Needs/ Medicaid Qualification Trusts 42 USC 1396p (1)(d)(4)(B)(i) & (ii)

18.   Management of Community Property by Community Administrator - §883, Probate Code

19.   Payment of Claims Without Guardianship (Court Registry) - §887, Probate Code

20.   Sale of Minor's Interest in Property - §889, Probate Code

21.   Sale of Adult Incapacitated Ward's Interest in Property - §890, Probate Code

22.   Uniform Transfers to Minors Act - §141.001 et. seq., Property Code

23.   Receivership - §885, Texas Probate Code

24.   Order of No Administration - §§139 – 142 Texas Probate Code

25.   Representative Payee - 42 USC §1383(a)(2)

26.   Veteran's Benefits Fiduciary - 38 USC §5502(a)(1)

27.   Suit by Next Friend - Rule 44, Rules Civ. Pro.

28.   Social Service Agencies

29.   Geriatric Care Managers - www.caremanager.org 

 

4.  LIMITING EFFECT OF GUARDIANSHIP

30.   Pre-Need Designation of Guardian - §679, Probate Code  For one’s self

31.   Pre-Need Designation of Guardian by Parent - §677A, §702(c) Texas Probate Code

32.   Pre-Need Declaration for Mental Health Treatment - §137.007 Civil Practice and Remedies Code

33.   Safekeeping or "Freeze" Agreements - §703, Probate Code

34.   Restoration of Ward - §694A, Probate Code

35.   Annual Determination - §672, Probate Code

36.   Emancipation of Minor Ward - §31.01ff, Family Code

37.   Enumeration of Powers in Guardianship Order - §693, Probate Code

38.   Negligible Estate - §745(a)(5)&(b), Probate Code

39.   Minor Ward’s Estate <$100,000 - §§745(c)&887, Probate Code

40.   Family Settlement Agreements

41.   Mother Nature and Father Time

 

III. PRACTICAL POINTERS

 

A.   A Basic Checklist for the Long Haul

1.   Consider whether less restrictive alternatives to guardianship are advisable (see above);

2.   Consider the necessity of temporary guardianship or other extraordinary relief (EPO, Receivership);

3. Have the applicant take the proposed ward to a physician (preferably one with a long time history of treating the proposed ward).  Have the proposed ward examined and provide the physician with a “Doctor’s Letter”

Most of the time, the only medical evidence of incapacity during the process of opening a guardianship will be the statement of the doctor who examined the proposed ward.

The court may not grant a guardianship unless there is a certificate of medical examination (“Doctor’s Letter”) filed with the court. TEX. PROB. CODE §687

The form of Doctor’s letter for Tarrant County Courts is found at Appendix C.

a.    Timeliness: the letter cannot be dated more than 120 days before the filing date of the application and the examination cannot have been performed more than 120 days before the application is filed.

b.   Contents: The letter is to specify many factors, including:

1)   the nature of the incapacity;

2)   a medical prognosis;

3)   the extent to which the proposed ward’s physical or mental health affects their ability to perform in a range of circumstances, including making financial or medical decisions, participate in a court proceeding, safely operate a motor vehicle, vote and any other information required by the court.

 

NOTE: If at all possible, the Doctor’s Letter should be obtained and filed at the time the Application for Guardianship is filed.  This will be the most time-saving action that can be taken.

 

c.   Mentally Retarded Potential Ward?  If the basis of the Proposed Ward's alleged incapacity is mental retardation (and the Proposed Ward is already a client of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation – TxMHMR), it will often be easier to use a timely (less than two years old) Determination of Mental Retardation (“DMR”). TEX. PROB. CODE §687(c).

It is not unusual to encounter an MR patient who has not been examined in some years, particularly if their physical health is stable.  If no DMR has been done within the last two years, see if your court (and local MHMR or doctor) will allow you to obtain a certificate to attach to the most recent (but now out-of- date) DMR reflecting that the information contained in the most recent DMR is still accurate, true, complete and correct.  This “booster shot” approach works well and saves time and money.

If a DMR cannot be obtained, the Proposed Ward’s treating physician may file a report reflecting an examination under the rules adopted by TxMHMR for such an examination. Ibid.

 

NOTE: If the Proposed Ward has a dual diagnosis which includes incapacity other than mental retardation, a regular Doctor’s Letter is sufficient and the DMR is unnecessary.

 

d.   Independent Medical Exam - If the court determines it is necessary (possibly upon the motion of the attorney for the applicant or an ad litem), the court sign an order for an independent medical examination. This determination may be made upon agreement of the parties (provided the attorney ad litem has waived the mandatory four-day notice provided for under TEX. PROB. CODE §687(b)) or after a hearing held for that purpose.

Any report resulting from the independent medical exam must be made available to the attorney ad litem for the proposed ward.

3.   As soon as possible, file your Application for Appointment of a Guardian (if necessary) and prepare an Order to Appoint an Attorney Ad Litem (as applicable) and (maybe) Order Appointing Guardian Ad Litem.  In some counties, the judges would prefer that the court investigator prepare the ad litem orders. Appendix F is included anyway as an example of a motion and order for a Guardian Ad Litem.

4.   Set the case for a hearing, send a Letter Confirming the Hearing to all parties (Appendix G) and ensure that Proposed Ward is properly served and that the return of citation has been on file for a sufficient period to 'ripen’;

5.   Determine if a representative payee for Social Security funds or any other government benefits has been designated and relay this information to the Court;

6.   Notify ‘laundry list’ as required by TEX. PROB. CODE §633 and file the required affidavit (Appendix H);

7.   Visit with the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian ad litem (as applicable) concerning the Application;

8.   Prepare Proof of Facts, Bond, Oath and Order (see Appendices I, J, K & L);

If your client is not a Texas resident, prepare a designation of resident agent.

9.   See that your Applicant attends any training offered/required by the court;

10.  Attend the hearing on application and, if the judge uses handouts regarding the responsibilities of the guardian (see Appendices N, O), go over the duties and responsibilities;

11. Assist the guardian in obtaining his or her bond and letters. (See “Removal for Failure to Qualify” infra)

 

B.   Capacity Assessment

The Capacity Assessment Handbook for Judges - The issue of the capacity of the proposed ward must be addressed early on.  It is the sine qua non of guardianships.

Counsel for the applicant, the ad litems and court personnel should all focus on assessing the capacity of the proposed ward. A proper assessment of capacity looks at a number of areas of functioning in a person’s life, taking into account that functionality for a retired unskilled laborer might be quite different than that of a retired investment banker.

After years of collaboration, the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, the American Psychological Association and the National College of Probate Judges have published the Judicial Determination of Capacity of Older Adults in Guardianship Proceedings. It available online at www.abanet.org/aging/docs/judgesbooksum.doc .

Using a multi-faceted approach, it views capacity from the standpoints of 1. medical condition, 2. cognition, 3. everyday functioning, 4. values and preferences, 5. risk and level of supervision, and 6. means to enhance capacity.

 

C.   The Ad Litems: A Necessary Evil or Your Best Ally?

Since 1993, the appointment of an attorney ad litem has been mandatory in all guardianships TEX. PROB. CODE §646.

Be aware that the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem have separate and distinct duties and responsibilities.  Older reported cases do not always make fin distinctions between the two positions.

Again, reference is made to the Ad Litem Manual on the Tarrant County Probate Court website.  It attempts to systematically cover the appointment of a guardian from the standpoint of the ad litem.

 

D.   Management Trusts

Similar to a §142 Trust under the Property Code, the court may create a Management Trust for the benefit of the ward to provide professional trust management for guardianship estate funds.

1.   CREATION - TEX. PROB. CODE §867 - Application for creation of such a trust may be made by the guardian of the person or estate or both, the attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem of a ward or of a proposed ward, or a person interested in the welfare of the ward or proposed ward.

2.   MANDATORY PROVISIONS - TEX. PROB. CODE §868 – Most courts will have a form they prefer to be used which complies with the statute. See the Tarrant County Probate Court website for an example.

3.   ADMINISTRATION - The corporate trustee files annual accounting like a guardian of the estate.  The trustee’s compensation is also to be measured like the guardian of the estate.

4.   QUALIFICATION AS SUPPLEMENTAL NEEDS TRUST - An 867 Trust may be drafted to qualify as a supplemental needs trust under the federal statute, allowing a ward to receive the benefit of many public assistance programs for which the ward might be otherwise disqualified.

5.   DISCHARGE OF GUARDIAN OF ESTATE AND CONTINUATION OF TRUST - TEX. PROB. CODE §868A - After the 867 Trust is established, if the court determines it is in the ward’s best interest, the guardian of the person may be discharged.  It is probable that no guardian of the estate was ever appointed under such a circumstance.

6.   AMENDMENT, MODIFICATION OR REVOCATION - TEX. PROB. CODE §§869, 869A - The court may amend, modify, or revoke the trust at any time before the date of the trust’s termination. The ward or the guardian of the ward’s estate may not revoke the trust. The court may appoint a corporate fiduciary as successor trustee if the trustee resigns, becomes ineligible, or is removed.

7.   TERMINATION OF TRUST - TEX. PROB. CODE §870 - If the ward is a minor, the trust terminates on the following:

a.    The death of the ward or the ward’s eighteenth (18th) birthday, whichever is earlier; or

b.   On the date provided by court order, which may not be later than the ward’s twenty-fifth (25th) birthday.

If the ward is an incapacitated person other than a minor, then the trust terminates on the death of the ward or when the court determines that continuing the trust is no longer in the ward’s best interest.

8. DISTRIBUTION OF TRUST PROPERTY - TEX. PROB. CODE §873 - Upon approval of the final account, the trustee shall distribute the principal or any undistributed income of the trust to:

a.    The ward when the trust terminates on its own terms;

b.   The successor trustee when one has been appointed;

c.   The representative of the deceased ward’s estate on the ward’s death.

 

E.   Notices & Citation: Jurisdictional Foundation and The Laundry List

1.   POSTER CITATION - (TEX. PROB. CODE §633b): Mandatory

2.   PERSONAL SERVICE - (TEX. PROB. CODE §633c): Mandatory on:

- a proposed ward age 12 or older;

- parents of proposed ward, if whereabouts are known;

- any court-appointed conservator or person with control of the care and welfare of proposed ward;

- spouse of proposed ward, if whereabouts known;

- the proposed guardian, if not same as Applicant.

The Attorney Ad Litem cannot accept service for the proposed ward and the proposed ward cannot waive personal service. All other persons entitled to personal service may file waivers. (TEX. PROB. CODE §633).

3. THE LAUNDRY LIST - TEX. PROB. CODE §633 - Mandatory Citation by Certified Mail, Registered Mail (UPS or Fed-Ex are OK, too - TEX. PROB. CODE §633(d)) to proposed ward’s:

a.    adult children;

b.   adult siblings;

c.   nursing home administrator; or

d.   operator of residential facility in which proposed ward resides;

e.    known holder of power of attorney from proposed ward;

f.    any person designated to serve as guardian under a designation of guardian, either pursuant to TEX. PROB. CODE §677A or §679); or in probated will of proposed ward’s last surviving parent; and

g.   any other known “next of kin” (if no spouse, parent, adult sibling or adult child (TEX. PROB. CODE §682(12)(E)).

The validity of a guardianship is not affected by the failure of the Applicant to serve any of the laundry list except the proposed ward’s adult children (but try to serve everyone anyway).

As you are obtaining waivers and serving the “laundry list,” be sure that you:

a.    Get your waivers and/or notices out, back and filed with your §633(d-1) affidavit with enough lead time to allow the court to act. There is a 10-day 'lead-time' requirement under TEX. PROB. CODE §633(f) before which the court cannot act. (See Appendix H)

b.   Keep copies of all of your paperwork.

c.   Send a copy of the front side of the Poster Citation to all ‘laundry list’ people.

 

IV. PROCEDURAL MATTERS

 

A.   Court Personnel

Wise old lawyers know that making friends with the court clerks and court staff is far more important than trying to get the judge to like you.

1. THE CLERK - The County Clerk in each county serves the court as clerk of the court. However, remember, the clerk is a separately-elected public official and is not an employee of the court.  Each court usually has a courtroom clerk assigned to it.  However, just because you tell something to the clerk, that doesn’t mean the court automatically knows about it (and vice versa).  By the same token, when you file something with the clerk (which is the only place you can file it, if you want the court to know about it, tell the court or drop off a courtesy copy of whatever it is you filed.

2. “PROBATE” COURTS

a. Constitutional County Court – Every county has a constitutional county judge, who may or may not have formal legal training.  In most rural counties, guardianships are a rarity.  Between the judge and the clerk, most of the ground gets covered.  Very few county courts have much more than a secretary to assist the judge.

b. County Court at Law – Statutory county courts are created to respond to local needs.  If you have a guardianship being heard in the County Court at Law, the judge also probably also gets to hear misdemeanor criminal matters, a general civil docket, possibly some condemnation cases and maybe some family law matters. It will all depend on the statute creating the court and local practice.

c. Statutory Probate Court - Right away you know you are dealing with a court in one of the ten largest counties in the state. (Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Galveston, Harris, Hidalgo, Tarrant and Travis counties). The statutory probate courts create more than 90% of the guardianships n the state.

Because they are both very specialized and high volume, the statutory probate courts will always have larger and more varied staffs than other courts.

Each court has a judge, a coordinator, a clerk (on loan from the clerk of course), a court reporter and a bailiff.  But then, they also usually have an administrator, an auditor, assorted probate assistants and possibly an associate judge and one or more staff attorneys.

Getting some idea of who does what will help you through the maze much better.  Many of the probate court websites will give details as to the functions of each position.

Also, because many of the procedural details of getting a guardianship are not spelled out in the guardianship code, the statutory probate courts (that oversee the vast majority of guardianships) have had to create policies and approaches to deal with the overwhelming high volume of work and to ensure uniform results.  Most of the courts will have internal operating procedures.

3.   COURT INVESTIGATOR - Of particular interest in the current scenario is the Court Investigator.

a.   Appointment - TEX. GOVT. CODE §25.0025 - The Court Investigator is appointed by the judge of the statutory probate court and compensated as set by the county commissioners.

b.   Duties - TEX. PROB. CODE §648A

1)   Investigation §682 - When an application for guardianship is filed under TEX. PROB. CODE §682, the court investigator makes an investigation into the circumstances alleged in the application to determine whether a less restrictive alternative than guardianship is appropriate.

2)   Investigation §683 – Similarly, in a court-initiated guardianship proceeding under TEX. PROB. CODE §683, once it comes to the court’s attention that there is probable cause to believe a person domiciled or found in the county is incapacitated and does not have a guardian, the court appoint a guardian ad litem or the court investigator to investigate and determine whether a guardianship is necessary. If the investigation reflects that a guardianship is necessary, the guardian ad litem or court investigator files a guardianship application.

3)   Report - After making the investigation, the court investigator files a report of findings and conclusions with the court.

In a contested case, the report is to be provided to the attorneys for the parties well before trial.

Assigning this duty to the Court Investigator does not relieve counsel, the ad litems, other court staff or the judge from any duty or obligation otherwise imposed by statute to report or investigate child or elder abuse or neglect.

4) Other duties:  In addition, the court investigator

a)   supervises the court visitor program established under TEX. PROB. CODE §648 and is the ex officio chief court visitor;

b)   investigates any complaints received about guardianships and, if necessary, reports to the judge

c)   the court investigator investigates the circumstances of the ward in a modification or restoration proceeding (TEX. PROB. CODE §694A) to determine whether termination or modification of the guardianship is necessary.

5) Costs – Recommendation: TEX. PROB. CODE §669(b) - Although the costs of a guardianship proceeding are normally to be borne out of the estate of the ward, or if insufficient from the county treasury, if a court denies a guardianship application based on the recommendation of a court investigator, the applicant shall pay the cost of the proceeding.

 

B.   Settings

Find out when your court hears guardianship applications.  If the ward opposes the guardianship and wishes to attend the hearing, even for a ‘pro forma’ contest, it may be better to ask for a special setting to allow a bit more time for everyone.

1. Plan ahead - dockets fill up.  If you have a dying proposed ward (why get a guardianship?) or an aging out MR minor, think ahead and find some time in advance for your prove-up.

2. See if the court may requires a separate setting request and/or a confirmation of the setting. (see Appendix G).

3. If the hearing has to be cancelled or postponed, notify the court and all attorneys and ad litems of the cancellation/delay

4. Do You Want a Record? If so, tell the court.  Uncontested guardianship hearings are not usually recorded.

 

C. Paperwork

1. Some courts will want an opportunity to review your documents prior to the hearing.  When possible, turn in all of your documents to the Clerk’s office at the time you file the application.

2. Correspondence on the case should be sent to other counsel and pro se parties (but not the court).

3. Paperwork to Bring to the Hearing

- Proof of Facts (filled-in, but unsigned),

- Designation of Resident Agent (if necessary)

- Proposed Order.  (Track the findings required by the appropriate Code Sections.)

- Surety Bond (preferably corporate) and

- Oath (to be executed only after the testimony is given in open court and the bond filed), See Appendices  I, J, K & L.

4. The Order: Powers of the Guardian - If you anticipate a guardianship with plenary authority, do not use a "laundry list" of powers, but use an order with a grant of plenary power: the guardian is hereby granted all powers authorized by the Texas Probate Code and the rights of the Ward are hereby restricted to the extent not inconsistent therewith. (Appendix E)

NOTE: The Application, the Doctor’s Letter and the Order must all specifically address the ability of the ward to operate a motor vehicle and to vote in a public election.  TEX. PROB. CODE §§ 682, 687 and 693(a).

5. Social Security Numbers - The court clerk gets the Social Security Numbers for the Ward and Guardian (on a separate sheet for the court’s records). TEX. PROB. CODE §671(e).

6. Guardianship Training – Increasingly, the courts are requiring new guardians to attend some kind of training before they are appointed.  Check it out.

 

D.   Hearing Day: Some General and Practical Observations

1.   RE-READ YOUR PLEADINGS (you may find surprises!)

2.   PREPARED TESTIMONY: Unless you expect the court reporter to make a record, always have your testimony reduced to writing (Appendix I), in all cases, for all witnesses, every time.

3.   GO OVER THE PREPARED TESTIMONY WITH YOUR CLIENT (but not in the courtroom while other hearings are going on).  Make sure your client understands the questions and the answers. Explain legal issues outside the presence of the Court and then ask summary questions (e.g.: disqualification, incapacity).

4.   SHOW SOME CONSIDERATION - If you think you are nervous, imagine how the applicant/witness/ward feels!  Don’t make your client grasp for dates, names, etc. Phrase questions to be easy to answer.

5.   BOND TESTIMONY: Be prepared to tell the court what the bondable assets of the estate are. (more below).

6.   MONTHLY ALLOWANCE: Know how much to ask the court to approve for a monthly allowance.  There is no point in waiting.  It will just cost more in fees and will delay the Guardian in being able to make authorized expenditures.  You can provide authorization for the monthly allowance in your order.

7.   PRESENCE OF WARD? - Whether or not to have the ward at the hearing is a matter to ponder.  The ward is required to be present unless the court determines in the order that the ward’s presence is not necessary. TEX. PROB. CODE §685

The Attorney Ad Litem may want the ward to appear to make a well-reasoned and dignified personal plea to the judge.  However, such strategies have been known to backfire if the proposed ward simply demonstrates that he/she is unable to function without assistance.

8.   DON'T MAKE THE COURT GUESS  If you have an unusual fact situation (or the situation is not what it appears), find some way to plead it or explain it.

9.   CHECK IN with the appropriate court staff.

10.  CALL if you're not coming.

11. DECORUM: this is a court of law, not the bus station.

Observe (and counsel your clients/witnesses to observe) the rules of decorum for the court.  You may or may not be given a warning of infractions before the court either asks you to leave or holds someone in contempt.

A telephone going off in the courtroom is usually followed by impoundment of the telephone or an immediate finding of contempt.

12.  BURDEN(S) OF PROOF:  Findings Required.

The court is required to make several findings before appointing a guardian. TEX. PROB. CODE §684.

a.    Clear and Convincing Standard:

i)    determination of incapacity;

ii)   that appointment of a guardian would be in the best interest of the proposed ward; and

iii)   appointment of a guardian would protect the proposed ward’s rights or property.

b.   Preponderance Standard:

i)    proper venue;

ii)   person to be appointed guardian is eligible to act as guardian and entitled to appointment, or, if no eligible person entitled to appointment applies, person appointed is a proper person to act;

iii)   (minors only) guardianship not created for primary purpose of enabling minor to establish residency for school enrollment for which minor is not otherwise eligible; and

iv)  description of nature and extent of incapacity.

13. BENCH INSTRUCTIONS – Your judge may have a set of instructions for the newly appointed guardian.  Attached as Appendix N & O are samples of bi-lingual instructions for the guardian of the person and guardian of the estate in use by Tarrant County Probate Court One.

14. TRAINING – Increasingly, the statutory probate courts are utilizing some form of training as guardians are appointed to familiarize the appointees with the process.  This may range from a one-on-one with court staff, to classroom-style presentations with handouts and powerpoint presentations.

 

E.   The Surety Bond

Asking the judge to set a low bond is rarely in the best interest of either the guardian or the ward.  If, for any reason, something goes amiss in the administration of the guardianship, the bond is the only available financial resource left to a successor guardian.

Note: Bond underwriting is currently based almost entirely on the credit history of the Principal.  If your applicant has any credit problems, you need to be talking to a bonding agent ahead of time.

1.   At the hearing, the testimony should include information about the approximate extent of the ward's estate so the judge can accurately determine an initial amount of the corporate surety bond for the newly-appointed guardian.

2.   Generally, the amount of the bond is the amount of the personal property on hand plus income and an allowance for outstanding debts plus a 10-20% amount to allow for the potential cost of an ad litem or successor personal representative to prosecute a surcharge actions against the previous personal representative.

3.   Some bonding agents will attend the hearing with you and have the bond ready to be approved.

4.   Courts often have a minimum bond amount for guardians of the estate, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.  Guardians of the person may be required to post either a personal surety bond or corporate surety bond, depending on the court's policies.  The guardian’s oath should not be executed before the bond has been filed with the clerk.

5.    After the initial bond is set, made and approved, the amount of the bond may be reduced through the use of Safekeeping or "Freeze" Agreements. TEX. PROB. CODE §703(e)&(f).  Appendix M. The guardian may deposit the estate cash or other assets in a state or national bank, trust company, savings and loan association, or other domestic corporate depository, to be held under an agreement that the depository will not allow withdrawal or transfer of the principal of the assets and/or interest on the deposit except on written court order.  The amount of the bond of the personal representative may then be reduced in proportion to the cash or other assets placed in safekeeping.

Caveat: TEX. FIN. CODE §101.102 defines the types of financial institutions with whom safekeeping agreements may be executed.  Unless chartered as a bank, brokerage houses usually do not qualify as institutions who can enter into valid safekeeping agreements.

 

F.   Qualifying as Guardian - TEX. PROB. CODE §699 - Within twenty (20) days of receiving the order appointing a guardian:

1.   Take and file an oath - TEX. PROB. CODE §700;

2.   File the required bond - TEX. PROB. CODE §702, 702A; and

3.   Have Letters of Guardianship issued by the probate clerk’s office. TEX. PROB. CODE §659.

 

CAVEAT: Letters of Guardianship expire one year and four months after the date of issuance unless renewed. TEX. PROB. CODE §659(b) The clerk cannot renew the letters until the guardian has filed the required annual account for the guardian of the estate (TEX. PROB. CODE §741) or the required annual report for the guardian of the person (TEX. PROB. CODE §743).

 

V. ADMINISTRATION

 

NOTE: Ongoing Monitoring: The Follow-Through

Be aware that the court is charged by statute (TEX. PROB. CODE §§648, 671, 672, 741, 742 & 743) to annually monitor all guardianships through the use of annual accounts, annual reports, and court visits.

The judge is charged to annually determine whether the guardianship should be adjusted or the ward’s rights restored.  Additionally, statutory probate courts are required to have a program to make and follow-up on annual visits on each ward.

As attorney for the new Guardian, you need to help your client understand their continuing obligation in a guardianship - both to the ward and to the court. 

It is important that the guardian understands that any reports required to be filed must be treated seriously.

If the newly appointed guardian has to be removed for failure to qualify within 20 days or removed a year later for failure to stay in touch with the court or file an accounting or report, the result is the same: the ward has suffered some damage because of the inaction of the guardian.

 

A.   Powers and Duties of Guardians

1.    GUARDIAN OF THE PERSON The specific rights and duties of the guardian of the person are determined by the powers granted in the order appointing the guardian.  The guardian of the person is entitled to the charge and control of the person of the ward, and the duties of the guardian correspond with the rights of the guardian.  TEX. PROB. CODE §767

A.   Specified Powers  TEX. PROB. CODE §767

1.    The right to have physical possession of the ward and to establish the ward's legal domicile;

2.    The duty of care, control, and protection of the ward (see infra: “Interference with Rights of Guardian of the Person”);

3.    The duty to provide the ward with clothing, food, medical care, and shelter; and

4.    The power to consent to medical, psychiatric, and surgical treatment other than in-patient psychiatric commitment of the ward.

B.   Expectations of the Guardian of the Person: See generally TEX. PROB. CODE §743. The guardian of the person, to properly fulfill his or her responsibilities to the ward, is expected to:

1.   See that the ward is appropriately housed, taking into consideration:

(a)  whether the current living arrangement is the least restrictive option available in order to maintain the ward’s health and safety;

(b)  the ward’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the living arrangement;

(c)  the availability of needed support systems, including help and care provided by family and friends, social and in-home services, medical and psychological services, and transportation services;

(d)  the geographical proximity of the ward’s residence to the guardian and other potential visitors;

(e)  the effect a change in residence would have on the ward psychologically, emotionally, socially and physically;

(f)  if the Ward lives in a facility: the opportunity to receive therapy, counseling and education; the availability of recreational and productive activities; the overall atmosphere and condition of the facility; the professionalism of the staff and friendliness of the staff and other residents; and the average age and abilities of the residents as compared with the Ward’s age and abilities.

2.   Have frequent and meaningful personal visits with the Ward, including:

(a)  communicating to the greatest extent possible (keeping in mind that listening is often more productive than talking and even the most incapacitated person benefits from human contact);

(b)  conferring with physicians, caregivers and service providers;

(c)  examining the Ward’s charts, records and other notes and reports referencing the Ward;

(d)  assessing the Ward’s physical, psychological and emotional states; and

(e)  taking an inventory of the Ward’s wardrobe and personal items to determine needs, appropriateness and condition.

3.   Make every effort to insure the Ward is receiving all available benefits for which he/she may be eligible and entitled.

4.   Obtain psychological, social services, training, educational, social and vocational opportunities for the Ward as needed and appropriate.

5.    Authorize and arrange any needed medical, dental, ophthalmological and surgical treatment.

C. Medical Issues - Life-Sustaining Procedures

1) Guardian may issue Healthcare Directive - A guardian of the person has the authority under TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §166.001 to issue directives and to make medical treatment decisions for both minor and adult wards.

This includes the authority to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment if the ward a terminal or irreversible condition as defined in TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §166.031(2)

In the event the ward has not made a directive to physicians, TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §166.039 describes the procedure when an incapacitated person, or one incapable of communication, has not executed a Directive.

The attending physician and the patient’s legal guardian may make a treatment decision that may include a decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures from the patient. This decision must be based on knowledge of what the patient would desire, if known.

Some courts will require an applications to be field to obtain an order authorizing the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures. Other courts take the position that the guardian has been given this authority and do not wish to hear such an application.

In Re: a Minor, 16 S.W.3d 153 (Tex. App. - Beaumont 2000, no pet.), the Beaumont court noted that a guardian of the person has the power to consent to medical, psychiatric and surgical treatment of a ward without court intervention and that a guardian is authorized to withhold or withdraw life sustaining procedures under the Health and Safety Code. Thus, it appears such application and order is unnecessary in most situations.

D.   Medical Issues - Psychiatric Care – With some exceptions (see below), a guardian may not voluntarily admit an incapacitated person for treatment in an in-patient psychiatric or residential MR facility, whether public or private).  The guardian of the person must instead institute commitment proceedings in the usual manner.

Exceptions:

1)   Under TEX. PROB. CODE §770(c), a guardian of a minor younger than 16 may voluntarily admit the ward for in-patient psychiatric facility treatment.

2)   Under TEX. PROB. CODE §770(d) a guardian of the person may voluntarily admit a mentally retarded ward to a residential care facility for emergency care or respite care services.

3)   Under Texas Health & Safety Code §§593.021 & 593.022, a guardian and a mentally retarded ward may agree to seek voluntary commitment in a residential care facility under certain circumstances.

E.   Medical Issues - Emergency Detention Texas Health & Safety Code §573.021 - The guardian of a person of a ward over 18 may transfer the ward to an in-patient mental health facility for a preliminary examination if the guardian has reason to believe and does believe that:

1)   the ward is mentally ill; and

2)   because of that mental illness there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the ward or others unless the ward is immediately restrained.

The legislature has also added a new Section 573.004 to the Health & Safety Code entitled “Guardian’s Application for Emergency Detention”. This section provides that

After transporting a ward to a facility, the guardian must immediately file an Application for Detention and provide written notice of the filing to the court that granted the guardianship.

The ward must be examined within 24 hours of the onset of the emergency detention.

F.   Medical Issues - Administration of Psychoactive Medication -

1.   Under TEX. PROB. CODE §770A, when an adult ward is under an Order of Protective Custody (Health & Safety Code §§574.021, 574.022), the guardian of the person may consent to the administration of psychoactive medication as prescribed by the ward’s treating physician.

2.   Pursuant to Texas Health & Safety Code §574.103, the guardian of the person may consent to the administration of psychoactive medication as prescribed by the ward’s treating physician when the ward is receiving court-ordered mental health services under an order of commitment.

G.   Limitation of Powers

1)   Driver’s License - If the court specifically determines that the ward may not operate a motor vehicle (TEX. PROB. CODE §693) such a finding must specifically be noted in the order granting the guardianship. The clerk must certify the finding to the Department of Public Safety within ten days of the order being signed under Transportation Code §521.312.

NOTE: The guardian should verify with the Department of Public Safety that the ward’s license was revoked and should use his or her best efforts to ensure that the ward does not drive.  The guardian may be subject to personal liability if damages result therefrom.

2)   Voting - The order granting the guardianship must also specifically address the issue of whether the ward may vote in a public election.  TEX. PROB. CODE §693.

3)   Interference with Rights of Guardian of the Person – TEX. PEN. CODE §25.10 - It is now a state jail felony to interfere with the guardian of the person’s possessory right to the ward.  This includes taking, retaining or concealing a ward, when the actor knows that such conduct interferes with the guardian’s rights. This includes the right of a guardian of the person both to have physical possession of the ward and to establish the ward’s legal domicile.

H.   Divorce Proceedings  A guardian may seek a divorce for a ward. Wahlenmaier v. Wahlenmaier, 762 S.W.2d 575 (Tex. 1988); accord, Stubbs v. Ortega 977 S.W.2d 718 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth, 1998, pet. denied). A statutory probate court has jurisdiction to hear divorce cases when one of the parties is under a guardianship. in re Graham, 971 S.W.2d 56 (Tex. 1998).

I.    Funeral Arrangements – Under TEX. PROB. CODE §774(a)(7), upon application and order, a guardian may purchase a prepaid funeral benefits contract for the ward.

 

2. GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE

A.   Power to Act Without Court Authority 

The guardian may perform ONLY the following acts without court authorization: TEX. PROB. CODE §774(b)

1.    Release liens upon final payment;

2.    Vote stocks;

3.    Pay calls and assessments;

4.    Purchase liability and property insurance; and

5.    Pay taxes, court costs, & bond premiums.

All other actions undertaken by the guardian must then be with prior approval of the court or be ratified by the court.

B.    General Description of Powers  The guardian of the estate is responsible for

1.   possession and management of all property belonging to the ward,

2.   collection of all debts, rentals, or claims that are due to the ward,

3.   enforcement of  all obligations in favor of the ward,

4.   litigating, offensively and defensively, on behalf of the ward,

5.   accounting for all rents, profits, and revenues produced by the guardian’s management,

6.    managing the estate as a "prudent person would manage the person's own property." TEX. PROB. CODE §768.

C.   Responsibilities of the Guardian of the Estate: TEX. PROB CODE §§771ff.

1.   Act as a fiduciary, standing in a position of the highest trust and responsibility with respect to the ward, keeping all affairs confidential; maintaining accurate and complete financial records and ensuring that all dealings undertaken on behalf of the ward, such as the purchase of goods and services, are properly completed.

Any inter vivos transfers from a ward to a guardian are presumed to be fraudulent. Porter v. Denas, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 5259 (Tex. App. San Antonio 2006, pet. denied)

2.   Obtain adequate health and property insurance and, when funds are available, make appropriate funeral and burial arrangements.

3.   Avoid conflicts of interest (and potential removal and personal liability) by

not commingling personal funds with the funds of the ward;

not borrowing money from or lending money to the ward;

not selling or encumbering real or personal property, or any interest therein, to himself, a relative, friend or business acquaintance.

4.   Comply with the requirements of the probate court.

D.   Taking Possession

1.    Generally  - Upon receiving Letters, the guardian of the estate takes possession of all personal property and business records of the estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §771.

A.   changing the locks on the ward’s house,

B.    placing personal property in insured storage,

C.   obtaining permission to sell perishable personal property (TEX. PROB. CODE §812) after the Inventory has been filed and approved.

2.   Bank Accounts - Set up appropriate separate accounts for Guardianship funds. 

3. Determine whether the Ward receives Social Security or other governmental benefits and, as appropriate, make application to become representative payee. (Do not commingle Social Security Benefits with other estate accounts and non-probate assets).

CAVEAT 1. Tread very lightly here.  The court is more likely to let you keep an investment in a form chosen by the ward prior to incapacity than to give you permission to make a new investment outside the court’s ‘comfort zone’ for investments.

CAVEAT 2. Consider whether to leave accounts where they are with only a change of signature card.  Many people who have done informal estate planning by setting up joint tenancies with rights of survivorship would probably rather their guardian invade other assets first.  The possibility of ‘buying into a lawsuit’ for interference with inheritance rights is diminished thereby.  If in doubt, notice everybody and have a hearing.

3.   Credit Cards - Cancel all credit cards issued in the Ward’s name.  Send written notice to a credit reporting agency that the Ward has been declared incapacitated and will not be making any loans or accepting “pre-approved” credit cards.

4. Financial Power of Attorney – TEX. PROB. CODE §485 - appointment of a guardian of the estate terminates the powers of an agent under a power of attorney given by the ward (unless the continued use of the power of attorney is found to be a less restrictive alternative to a guardianship of the estate). The agent must deliver to the guardian of the estate all assets of the estate of the ward in the agent’s possession.  The guardian has the authority to require a financial agent to account.  Upon qualification, the guardian should immediately give notice to any person appointed agent under a power of attorney executed by the ward and request an accounting.

Similarly, upon appointment of a temporary guardian, the court may suspend the powers of the attorney-in-fact until the temporary guardianship expires.

5. Execution of Documents - In executing any documents as guardian, the guardian should always sign such documents in his or her representative capacity (as guardian), and not individually, to avoid personal liability under the document.

E.   Limitations on the Guardian's Authority - Even though a parent is the natural guardian of a minor child, only a court-appointed guardian of the minor's estate has authority to take custody and control of the estate.  Rodriguez v. Gonzalez, 830 S.W.2d 799 (Tex. App.-Corpus 1992, no pet.). 

Absent court approval, the guardian does not have authority to revoke a revocable trust established by the ward when capacitated.  Weatherly v. Byrd, 566 S.W.2d 292; (Tex. 1978)

See the discussion infra on retaining investments versus seeking authorization under a Management Plan to make investments.

F. Liability of Guardian for Ward’s Conduct – TEX. PROB. CODE §673 - While the guardian of the person is not liable to a third parties for the ward’s conduct solely because he or she has been appointed guardian, this does not provide complete immunity for a guardian. The guardian may be held liable for negligently permitting the ward to cause injury to another person.

G. Tax Issues in Guardianship - It is not unusual to find that the ward has not have filed income tax returns for several years. The guardian of the estate should file IRS Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship, to notify the Internal Revenue Service of his or her appointment as guardian.  This is to ensure that the IRS will deliver all notices concerning the ward’s taxes to the guardian.

The guardian should promptly locate the necessary financial information and file the past due returns.  For the guardian to obtain copies of tax returns for prior years, the guardian should complete IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Form.

Tax Identification Number - If the guardian has an operating business or pays sitters or housekeepers for the ward, the guardian should make sure obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number by filing an IRS Form SS-4, and getting a State account number. When payments are made to the care givers, employment taxes should be withheld and the appropriate periodic reports should be filed with state and federal agencies.

Upon the termination of the guardianship, the guardian should send notice of the termination of the guardianship by IRS Form 56.

 

B.   The Inventory, Appraisement & List of Claims

Gathering information for the Inventory is the first and best time to get all the information needed to administer the estate and later, to handle the estate of a deceased ward.  It is important to spend some time nailing down the details.

1.    TIME FOR FILING:  due within 30 days of qualification. TEX. PROB. CODE ANN. §729

2.    PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS:

A.   Date of Valuation: market value as of the date of the grant of letters.

B.    Gross Worth: without deduction for liens or other encumbrances.

C.   Appraisers: TEX. PROB. CODE §727  Don’t ask for appraisers unless the judge requires it.

3.    CONTENTS:  TEX. PROB. CODE §729 The inventory should be divided into the following categories and subcategories:

A.   Real Property: "all real property of the estate situated in the state of Texas."  The description must be sufficient to identify the property.  If the property is residential, a street address is helpful, but the lot and block description should always be included.

If the property is rural, a metes and bounds description helps preclude later contests over what property is involved.

A notation as to current use (e.g.: residential, farm land, commercial, rental, etc.) will be helpful to everyone concerned and will be necessary in the accounting process.

B.    Personal Property: "All personal property of the estate wherever situated"  Categorize the property into logical groupings: “Cash in Banks,” “Securities,” etc.  Descriptions should follow a common sense approach, with sufficient information to identify the asset without unnecessary detail.

1.    Bank Accounts should describe the address of the bank.  A partially redacted account number may be included.

2.    Automobiles should include the VIN.

3.    Further Subdivision:

a.    Separate Property of the Ward

b.    Community Property of the Ward

c.    Tenancies in Common:

i.    separate property tenancies in common

ii.    community property tenancies in common. Property owned by the Ward in common with others (such as tenancies in common on a family ranch) must specify: 1. the nature and extent of the Ward's interest (usually shown as a fraction) and 2. the names and relationship of all known co-owners.

4.    THE LIST OF CLAIMS In addition to the Inventory, the guardian must return "A full and complete list of claims due or owing to the estate". TEX. PROB. CODE §730. Like the Inventory, this is a listing of property owned by the estate.  Anything owed by the estate (i.e., debts of the estate) is not required to be included.

A.   Contents: For each claim, the list should show:

1)    name and address of the debtor.

2)    nature of the debt (i. e. note, bill, other written instrument, an open account or verbal contract).

3)    date on which debt was incurred & claim's due date.

4)    rate of interest being charged and the time for which interest is charged.

5)    amount of the claim.

B.    Separate or Community nature of claim.

C.   Claims held in common with others must show:

1)    names and relationships of other part owners

2)    estate's fractional interest.

 

EXAMPLE: Unsecured note, dated 1/1/92  balance as of date of qualification $6,750.00, held by John Jones 1346 S. 14th, Dallas, TX, rate: 8.375%, term 10 years, final payment due 12/31/95 - held in common w/Fred Torkleson, 4304 Tophill, San Angelo, Texas, business partner of Ward, guardianship interest: 50%.

 

5.    AFFIDAVIT - The inventory must be followed by Guardian’s affidavit, swearing that: "the inventory and list of claims are, to the best of his knowledge, a true and complete statement of the estate's assets." TEX. PROB. CODE §730.

6.    COURT ACTION ON THE INVENTORY

A.   Order Approving: After the inventory is filed, the court must examine it and enter an order either approving or disapproving it. 

B.    Order Disapproving: If disapproved, another inventory must be prepared and returned within twenty (20) days or less. TEX. PROB. CODE §733.

7.    CHANGES TO THE INVENTORY

A.   Property to be Added: Supplement - If the guardian learns of property or claims not included in the original lists, a supplemental inventory, appraisement or list of claims must be filed, listing only property not included in the original.  It does not restate all of the property of the Estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §734.

B.    Property to be Deleted: Amend - If the guardian must delete items included by mistake, an amended (corrected) inventory is to be filed.  Unlike a supplement inventory, it must restate all of the property of the Estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §736.

8.    FAILURE TO RETURN AN INVENTORY

If the guardian fails or refuses to timely file the inventory, the court can either:

A.   enter an order compelling him/her to do so,

B.    cite the guardian to appear and show cause why he or she should not be removed, or

C.   remove the guardian and appoint a new one, on the court's own motion or on that of an interested person. TEX. PROB. CODE §761.

9.    COMPELLED CHANGES TO THE INVENTORY

A.   Complaint and Hearing. On written complaint that the movant believes the original inventory to be either incomplete or incorrect, the court can cite the guardian to show cause why he should not be required to file an supplemental or amended inventory.  If so ordered, the guardian will usually be given 20 days (or less) to make the changes. TEX. PROB. CODE §§735, 736

B.    Refusal to File Additional Inventory: Refusal to comply with an order compelling an additional or corrected inventory is grounds for removal.  TEX. PROB. CODE §761  The aggrieved party may then proceed against the guardian and the sureties on his bond for the property received and not accounted for.

 

C. Claims - Generally

1.    AUTHENTICATION - While claims must generally be authenticated before allowance or rejection by the personal representative, a guardian is permitted to pay an unauthenticated claim if he believes it to be just. The claim must be supported by an affidavit that the claim is just and that all legal offsets, payments, and credits known to the affiant have been allowed.

2.    CLAIM BY GUARDIAN - A claim held by the guardian prior to appointment must be verified and presented as in other cases.  TEX. PROB. CODE §803(a).

3.    NO CLASSIFICATION OF CLAIMS - Unlike in decedent’s estates, claims in a guardianship are not classified before payment; therefore, creditors with perfected claims are entitled to pro rata payment, subject to the order of payment under TEX. PROB. CODE §805(b).

4.    ORDER OF PAYMENT - Once claims have been allowed and approved by the court or established by suit, they are to be paid in the following order:

A.   Expenses for the care, maintenance and education of the ward and his dependents.

B.    Funeral expenses and expenses of last illness (if the guardianship is kept open after the ward's death under TEX. PROB. CODE §746).

C.   Expenses of administration.

D.   All other claims against the estate.

However, if the estate is insolvent, expenses of administration (including attorney’s fees) have a priority TEX. PROB. CODE §805.

5.    GUARDIAN CANNOT PURCHASE CLAIMS - A guardian is prohibited from purchasing a claim against the estate.  TEX. PROB. CODE §807.

6.    NOTIFICATION TO VETERANS ADMINISTRATION - If the ward is a VA beneficiary, that agency is entitled to notice and hearing before any claim is paid; however, the VA will usually waive notice and hearing.

7.    FAILURE TO ENDORSE CLAIM - The guardian may be removed for failure to endorse allowance or rejection of a claim within 30 days.  TEX. PROB. CODE §797.  This may also result in personal liability of the Guardian.

 

NOTICE TO CREDITORS AND CLAIMS IN A NUTSHELL

1.    General notice to creditors by publication within 30 days from receiving letters.  File a copy of the notice and the publisher's affidavit with the clerk. TEX. PROB. CODE §783.

2.    Notice to secured creditors by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, within 4 months from receiving letters. TEX. PROB. CODE §784(a).

3.    Notice to general claimants, if known, by certified or registered mail, within four months of receiving letters TEX. PROB. CODE §784(b).

4.    Permissive notice (“Put-up or Shut-up”) requiring creditors to present claims within 120 days of receipt of notice or claims for money will be barred. TEX. PROB. CODE §§784(e), 786(a).

NOTE: Potential misfeasance may be avoided by sending these “smoke-‘em-out” notices sent in a potentially insolvent estate to allow the remaining assets to be managed for the maximum benefit of the ward.

5.    Presentment of authenticated claim to guardian or filed with the county clerk, or presentment of unauthenticated claim to guardian.

CAVEAT:  If the guardian pays unauthenticated claims without court approval, he or she acts at his or her own peril.  If the court finds the claim to be unjust, the guardian and bond sureties are liable for the amount paid.  TEX. PROB. CODE §§788, 792

6.    Claim allowed or rejected within 30 days from presentment or filing (automatic rejection after 30 days)

NOTE:  Failure by the creditor to sue within 90 days of rejection is a limitations bar, not just a defense.

7.    Allowed claims filed with the clerk and placed on the claim docket.

8.    After 10 days the court approves or rejects the claims (except when VA beneficiary and VA does not waive hearing).

9.    Approved claim paid by guardian.

10.  Suit on rejected claim must be filed within 90 days from date of rejection.

 

D.   Spending The Ward’s Money: Preliminary Considerations

1.   EXPENDITURES ALLOWED WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL - The guardian of the estate may pay only: a) insurance premiums (including bond premiums); b) taxes, and c) court costs without prior approval. TEX. PROB. CODE §774(b).

Expenditures without proper authority may result in personal liability for the guardian and sureties and removal of the guardian.

2.   MONTHLY ALLOWANCE: An allowance to expend guardianship funds may (and probably should) be set at the time of the grant of letters. TEX. PROB. CODE §693(b)(3).  (See above.)

3.    SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

A.   Not Part of Guardianship Estate - Social Security benefits are not "corpus" of a guardianship estate.  The Social Security Act preempts Texas law concerning authority to disburse benefits to an individual payee. 42 U.S.C. §405

B.    Comingling Requires Accounting -  However, if social security funds are commingled with guardianship estate funds or if Social Security funds are paid directly to the guardian, the social security funds must then be accounted for by the guardian to the satisfaction of the court. Tharp v. Blackwell, 570 S.W. 2d 154 (Tex. App. – Texarkana, 1978, no writ) Alford v. Marino, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 10162 (Tex. App. Houston 14th District, December 8, 2005, no pet.)

C.   Separate Accounting Required – Even if Social Security Payments are kept segregated, the Representative Payee must still file an annual account for the Social Security Administration. 42 U.S.C. §1007.  Some judges will require a copy of the SSA accounting to be attached to the Guardian of the Person report.

4.   Reimbursement (for $ advanced by Guardian):  The guardian must attach adequate documentation to allow the court to authorize reimbursement (especially in light of a parent/guardian’s duty of support).  Any expenditure of guardianship funds for the benefit of the guardian personally without prior court approval is extremely perilous.

5.   Ratification (Getting Forgiveness):  The court, in its discretion, may ratify expenditures previously made without court approval if the guardian establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the expenditures:

a.    were made during an emergency,

b.   were reasonable and proper,

c.   would have been approved had the court had the opportunity, and

d.   directly benefited the ward.  TEX. PROB. CODE §776(b)

Court Action: The court should hear evidence and make findings on any claim for retroactive approval of unauthorized expenditures of corpus.  Approval of expenditures made without prior court order for emergency hospitalization of the ward was held to be proper.  Pemberton v. Leatherwood, 218 S.W.2d 500 (Tex. App.-Eastland 1949, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

 

E.    Support, Maintenance and Education of the Ward

1.    Where Guardian is the Parent of a Minor Ward: A parent of a minor has a legal duty to support the child from his own resources.  Thus, absent clear and convincing evidence of inability to support the child, the parent has no authority as guardian to expend any amount, income or corpus of the child's estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §777(a).

2. Where Guardian is Not the Parent of a Minor/Ward. The guardian of the person of a minor or incapacitated person may, pursuant to court order, expend the income (and, if necessary) the corpus of the ward's estate for the ward's education and maintenance. TEX. PROB. CODE §777(b)

3. Ward’s Dependents: Education & Maintenance

A.        Subject to the basic prohibition against allowing a parent/guardian from expending funds for the ward’s support,  the court can authorize the guardian to expend funds for the support or maintenance of the ward's spouse or dependents.  TEX. PROB. CODE §776A.

B.     The court must weigh a number of considerations:

1.    the circumstances of the ward, his/her spouse and dependents;

2.    the ability and duty of the ward's spouse to support him/herself and his/her dependents;

3.    the size of the ward's estate;

4.    whether the ward, the spouse or the dependent has a beneficial interest in a trust;

5.    whether an existing estate plan (including a trust or will) provides a benefit to the spouse or dependents. TEX. PROB. CODE §776A(b)

C.   Notice of the application to all interested persons by certified mail is required. TEX. PROB. CODE §776A(c).

D. Expenditures of Corpus: Invading the corpus of the estate for the ward's education and maintenance must be authorized by court order.  TEX. PROB. CODE ANN. §776(a) Pemberton v. Leatherwood, supra.

 

NOTE - Invasion of Principal Lawyers who are unfamiliar with the prohibition on invasion of principal place themselves in jeopardy with their clients and legal malpractice carriers by failing to inform their clients of this restriction.

Unauthorized invasion of principal is a leading cause for the removal and surcharge (personal liability) of guardians.  The statute limits the ability of the court to aid a guardian who has mistakenly invaded principal.

 

F.  Gifts

1.    GENERAL RULE: NO COMMON LAW POWER TO MAKE GIFTS          Absent specific statutory authorization, the guardian has no authority to make a gift. In re Guardianship of Neal, 406 S.W.2d 496 (Tex. App.-Houston 1966) writ ref'd n.r.e., per curiam, 407 S.W.2d 770 (Tex. 1966).  See generally Mayer, Gifts by Guardians: Texas Rejects Substitution of Judgment Doctrine, 19 Baylor L. Rev. 411 (1967). 

2.    TAX-MOTIVATED GIFTS  However, Guardian may make tax-motivated gifts under very stringent circumstances to charities or family members. TEX. PROB. CODE §865.

Considerable notice requirements are imposed and the court is required to make specific findings as to the condition of the ward’s estate, its income, the percentage amount of the intended gift, its deductibility and the reasonableness and worthiness of the cause. TEX. PROB. CODE §866.

3.    INSPECTION OF ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS: For this purpose alone, the guardian of the estate may apply for an "in camera" inspection of the ward’s estate planning documents.  The custodian of the will is not otherwise obligated to make the document available. TEX. PROB. CODE §865A

 

G. Abandonment of Property

1.    Guardians of the Estate are authorized, upon application and order, to abandon worthless or burdensome property and the administration of that property.  TEX. PROB. CODE §774(a)(6).

2.    Abandoned real property may then be foreclosed upon by the appropriate party (secured party, trustee or mortgagee.) ibid.

3.    Presumably, one may look to trust law for guidance as to what constitutes "worthless or burdensome" property.   TEX. PROP. CODE §113.020, Scott, The Law of Trusts, § 192 at 141 (4th ed. 1987).

 

H. Investments And Loans

1.    INVESTMENT OF SURPLUS REQUIRED - The guardian of the estate is required to invest any money on hand beyond that which is necessary to educate and maintain the ward.  TEX. PROB. CODE §855.

2.    LIABILITY FOR FAILURE TO INVEST - If the guardian neglects to invest surplus money, he is liable for the principal and the highest legal interest rate which the funds would have earned.  TEX. PROB. CODE §863.

3.    LEGAL OPINION ON LOANS - Before making a loan, the guardian must obtain the written opinion of an attorney that all papers, documents and titles to bonds, notes or realty are good, except that a title insurance policy on real estate may be obtained in lieu of the attorney's opinion.  TEX. PROB. CODE §861.

4.    SAFE HARBOR” INVESTMENTS (PERMISSIBLE WITHOUT COURT APPROVAL - TEX. PROB. CODE §855(b) lists the investments which do not require court approval:

A.   Bonds or other U.S. obligations.

B.    Tax-supported bonds of Texas or govern-mental subdivisions of the state.

C.   Federally insured share accounts or interest bearing accounts in federal savings and loan associations or banks in Texas.

D.   Collateral bonds of Texas corporations which have paid-in capital of $1 million.

E.    Report Required on Loans Without Approval: Any loan made without court approval must be reported to the court within 30 days.  TEX. PROB. CODE §862

5.    RETENTION OF ASSETS – TEX. PROB CODE §855A. The guardian of the estate has the first year of the administration of the guardianship to retain estate assets (including additions received through gift, devise, inheritance, mutation, or increase), without court approval, without regard to diversification of investments and without liability for depreciation or loss resulting from the retention.

The guardian must proceed under a “prudent man” standard.

After the first year, on application, hearing and order, the court authorize continued retention if the retention is an element of the guardian's investment plan as provided below.

6. INVESTMENT PLANS TEX. PROB. CODE §855B

A.   The guardian must, within six months of qualification, either:

1)    invest all estate assets in safe harbor investments ; or

2)    apply to the court for an order:

a)    authorizing an investment plan; or

b)    modifying or eliminating the guardian's duty to invest the estate.

B.    Investment plans are designed to get the guardian to “think through” the entire administration of the guardianship so the timing (or lack thereof) of the retention or sale of assets will not cause the guardian to have to take “emergency” measures due to a failure to anticipate the liquidity needs of the ward.  The court may approve the investment plan or modifying the guardian’s duty to keep the estate invested without a hearing.

Some courts do not require investment plans, while others do.  Check your local listings.

 

I. Sales

 

REAL PROPERTY SALES IN A NUTSHELL

1.    Guardian files written application describing property with attached verified affidavit of condition of estate.  TEX. PROB. CODE §§821, 827

2.   Notice by posting for 10 days.

3.   Hearing held (now optional) and order of sale approved.

4.   Sale takes place and closed to escrow.

5.    A sworn report of sale is filed within 30 days from date of sale.

6.   Report of sale must remain on file for five days.

7.   Court determines sufficiency of the bond and may order additional bond.

8.   Court signs decree confirming or disapproving sale.

9.   Guardian conveys real estate by deed identifying or referring to decree confirming sale.

10.  Sales proceeds distributed.

 

1.  GUARDIAN'S PURCHASE OF WARD'S PROPERTY

A guardian cannot purchase any property of the ward unless:

A. The ward, prior to incapacity, had entered into a written executory contract with the person later appointed as guardian.  TEX. PROB. CODE §831(b).

B. An attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the ward. TEX. PROB. CODE §831(c).

2.    PERISHABLE PROPERTY TO BE SOLD - Upon approval of the inventory, the guardian must immediately file an application to sell all property of the estate liable to perish, waste, or deteriorate in value or get an order from the Court deeming the property not subject to waste or diminution in value. TEX. PROB. CODE §812.

 

Diminution in Value: a Minefield - TEX. PROB. CODE §812 is a potential nightmare for guardians, their lawyers, and probate judges.  Maintaining property of the guardians estate without seeking permission to sell it when it declines in value is a fertile field for 1) claims against guardians for failure to sell; 2) malpractice claims against lawyers for failure to advise guardians of the duty to dispose of property subject to diminution in value and 3) claims against Probate Judges for failing to monitor the estate as required by law.

 

3.    PERMISSIBLE GROUNDS FOR SALES TEX. PROB. CODE §§820 & 830:

A.   Pay expenses of administration, funeral expenses, allowances, claims, and debts against the estate;

B.    Make up a deficiency when the income from the estate is insufficient for the ward's education and maintenance;

C.   Dispose of an undivided real estate interest;

D.   Provide an easement or right-of-way;

E.    Dispose of non-productive real estate;

F.    Sell mineral interests in order to conserve the estate; and/or

G.   Dispose of real property if it is in the best interest of the ward.

4.    REQUIRED TERMS - Sales of real estate must be for cash or credit with a minimum 20% in cash and a note bearing at least 4% interest secured by a vendor's lien and deed of trust. TEX. PROB. CODE §827.

5.    PRIVATE OR PUBLIC SALES - Sales may be made by private sale or by auction as approved by the court.  TEX. PROB. CODE §§815, 828, and 829.

6.    SALES BY TEMPORARY GUARDIAN - Unlike a temporary administrator, a temporary guardian may be authorized by the court to sell estate property. McKinley v. Salter, 136 S.W.2d 615 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1940, writ dism'd).

7.    SALES OF PERSONAL PROPERTY - Sales of personal property do not require conveyance or examination into the sufficiency of the bond, and the decree confirming the sale of personal property will pass title.  TEX. PROB. CODE §818

8.    APPROVAL OF SALE WITHOUT HEARING – If there is no opposition to the sale, the court may act on the application without a hearing. TEX. PROB. CODE §824A.

9.    COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED - All sales of guardianship property require court approval, and a sale without court approval is considered void. Browne v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 80 S.W. 593 (Tex. 1904).

10.  COMMONLY OWNED PROPERTY - The guardian has several courses of action in dealing with jointly or commonly owned property:

A.   He can possess the property in common with other co-owners.  TEX. PROB. CODE §775.

B.    With court approval, he may sell the ward's undivided interest.  TEX. PROB. CODE §820.

C.   With court approval, he may enter into an agreement with other joint owners for partition. TEX. PROB. CODE §853(a).

D.   If he cannot reach an agreement for partition with other joint owners, he may sue for partition in court.  TEX. PROB. CODE §853(f).

 

J. Renting and Leasing Estate Property

1.    ONE YEAR OR LESS: NO COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED - no court order required (however, the guardian is liable for the value of any unpaid rent absent court approval.  TEX. PROB. CODE §§839, 840.

2.    MORE THAN A YEAR: COURT APPROVAL REQUIRED - requires court approval. TEX. PROB. CODE §841.

3.    FAILURE TO RENT - If the guardian neglects to rent property, any person may file a sworn written complaint for the guardian to show cause for not renting property. TEX. PROB. CODE §842.

4.    MINERAL LEASES -       The court may also order the leasing of mineral rights:

A.   written application

B.    Notice by publication at least 10 days before the hearing with proof of publication at the hearing.

C.   If the court authorizes the lease, the guardian has 30 days to enter into the lease.  TEX. PROB. CODE §847.

D.   TEX. PROB. CODE §848 provides a narrow exception for a private lease without notice.

 

K.  Borrowing - TEX. PROB. CODE §781

      If it is found to be in the best interest of the ward, the court may authorize a guardian may mortgage or pledge estate property as security on a loan to:

1.    purchase a residence for the ward or his dependents.

2.    pay: taxes, expenses of administration, business or farm expenses, claims, and extensions on liens.

3.    make improvements and repairs in order to make property income-producing.

 

L. The Duty to Account

1.    ANNUAL ACCOUNTS - The guardian of the estate has the ongoing responsibility to make annual accountings reflecting the condition and activities of the estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §741.

The guardian of the person must also file annual reports setting forth specific information regarding the condition of the ward from a medical and social standpoint. TEX. PROB. CODE §743.

A.   Contents: The required contents of the annual account are enumerated in considerable detail by the Probate Code. TEX. PROB. CODE §741(b).  An example of the form required by Tarrant County Probate Court One is available on the court’s website.

B.    Court Action on Accounts: TEX. PROB. CODE §742

1.    After the account is filed with the county clerk, the court may not act upon the annual account until after 10 days has expired.  The court must be satisfied as to the correctness of all items of the account.

2.    Corrections and amendments may be made, and when corrected to the satisfaction of the court, the order approving the annual account can be signed.

C.   Unpaid Claims: Unpaid claims may be dealt with by the court as follows:

1.    if the estate is solvent, and the guardian has sufficient funds to pay all claims made, the court shall order immediate payment made of all claims allowed and approved or established by judgment;

2.    if the estate is insolvent, or it appears that there are insufficient funds on hand to pay all claims, but the guardian has some funds on hand, the court shall order the funds to be applied:

a.    to the payment of all claims having a preference in the order of their priority (TEX. PROB. CODE §805), then

b.    to the payment pro rata of the other claims allowed and approved or established by final judgment, taking into consideration also the claims presented within the first 12 months of the administration and those claims that are pending in litigation or on which suit may yet be instituted.

2.    FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE - TEX. PROB. CODE §745 - A Guardianship of the Estate is to be settled (no longer “settled and closed”): when

A.   The Minor Ward a) dies, b) reaches 18, c) has disabilities of minority legally removed (in district court), d) gets married, or e) for some other reason, there is no longer a necessity for guardianship (e.g. guardianship trust established under TEX. PROB. CODE §867)

B.    The Incapacitated Adult Ward: a) dies, b) has his/her capacity formally restored, c) the ward’s spouse qualifies as community administrator under TEX. PROB. CODE §883 and the ward owns no separate property, or d) all estate assets have been placed in a management trust under TEX. PROB. CODE §867 or;

C.   A ward entitled to funds from a governmental source: a) dies, or b) when court finds necessity for guardianship has ended;

D.   The estate becomes exhausted;

E.    The ward’s foreseeable income is so negligible that maintaining guardianship would be a burden (income authorized to be paid to a nursing home for ward’s maintenance).

F.    Minor ward’s estate consists only of $100,000 or less in cash or cash equivalents, assets paid into court registry, per TEX. PROB. CODE §885.

G.   The court determines for any other reason that a guardianship for the ward is no longer necessary.

3.    CONTENTS OF FINAL ACCOUNT: TEX. PROB. CODE §749 - The Account for Final Settlement is very similar to the Annual Accounts.  An example of the form required by Tarrant County Probate Court One is available on the court’s website.  There are, however, a few important distinctions.

A.   Estate Property Remaining on Hand: Because this is the ‘last stop’ before distribution, any assets on hand, especially those received since the last annual account, should be carefully itemized and, where possible, vouchers should be attached.

POINTER: Although not specifically required by the Code, it is strongly suggested that you require the cash balances and securities remaining on hand in the name of the estate to be verified as of the closing date of the account by letter, certificate, or affidavit in the manner required by Section 399 for annual accounts. This will be the "pie" which is to be cut up and divided upon approval of the final account, so the size of it can make a real difference.

B.    Dispositions of Property: It is very helpful to the court for the accounting to reflect cross-references to previous proceedings in the guardianship (sales, application and orders, extraordinary expenditures, etc.)  leasing or other relevant transactions.)

C.   Debts: Any debts which, for whatever reason, have not come to the court’s attention should be set out in detail and supported by sufficient documentation to show that they have either been paid or are valid charges against the estate.

This is particularly important as outstanding liabilities may have to be "distributed", along with the assets, to the persons determined to be entitled to the Estate.

D.   Inheritance Taxes: owed to the State of Texas must be paid before the court can approve the final settlement and close the estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §754

E.    Distributees: The names of the persons entitled to receive the estate, their relationship to the Ward, their addresses, if known, and whether or not they are minors or incapacitated (if so, the names of their guardians, if any) should also be included.  Any advancements or payments made from the estate to any distributee should be indicated.

F.    Action Requested: TEX. PROB. CODE §752 What is that you want the court to do? In the annual account, the guardian merely requests the court to "audit, settle and approve this account," but in the final account, the court is asked to do several things in a certain order:

1.    to audit, settle and approve the account,

2.    to order payment of remaining unpaid debts of the estate or to find that the guardian has made adequate provision therefor.

3.    to order the delivery of the estate property remaining on hand to the ward (or to those persons entitled to receive it if the ward is deceased).

If the ward is deceased, there should be some reference to another proceeding or document (heirship determination, probate of Last Will and Testament, intestate administration).  After distribution of the property, the guardian must secure receipts from the distributees.

G.   Action Completed: After receipts for all estate property have been filed, the court can enter its final order:

1.    discharging the guardian and

2.    releasing the surety or sureties on the guardian's bond from further liability.

4. CITATION - TEX. PROB. CODE §751: The requirement of citation on the final account is a major difference between an annual and a final account.

When the final account is filed, the clerk issues citation stating that the final account has been filed, when and where it will be considered by the court, and requiring the person cited to appear and contest the final account if they wish.

A.   If the Ward is living, a Texas resident and has a known residence, there must be citation by personal service (but a capacitated ward may file a waiver).

B.    If the ward is dead,

1.    and there is an administration on the deceased ward’s estate, the personal representative of the deceased ward's estate may be served or may waive service;

2.    and there is no administration, but the affairs of the deceased ward will be settled in the guardianship with a determination of heirship, those persons determined to be the heirs of the ward are to be served by certified mail (or file waivers).

C.   If the ward is living, but not a Texas resident and his or her residence is unknown, citation shall be served by publication (unless the court determines citation is to be posted).

D.   Further Notice: The court, as it deems necessary, may require further notice.

 

M.  Termination of Guardianships of the Person -  TEX. PROB. CODE §747

1.    When the guardianship is settled and closed pursuant to TEX. PROB. CODE §745, the guardian shall deliver all property of the ward in his possession or control to the former ward or other person entitled to the property.  If the ward is deceased, the guardian shall deliver the property to the personal representative of the deceased ward's estate or other person entitled to the property.

2.    If there is no property of the ward in the possession or control of the guardian of the person, the guardian shall file a sworn affidavit with the court that states the reason the guardianship was terminated and to whom the ward's property was delivered.  The judge may issue orders as necessary for the best interests of the ward or of the estate of a deceased ward.  This section does not discharge a guardian of the person from liability for breach of the guardian's fiduciary duties.

 

N.   Monitoring/ Restoration of Ward/ Modification of Guardianship - TEX. PROB CODE §§694A-694K

1.   MONITORING – As the court monitors a guardianship (TEX. PROB CODE §672 – annual review of guardianship) the court must consider whether the powers of the guardian or the rights of the ward should be modified.  In addition, a ward may apply to the court (formally or informally) for a modification of the guardianship, even to the point of restoration of the ward’s capacity.

2.   INVESTIGATION - On receipt of an informal letter, the court appoints the court investigator or a guardian ad litem to file an application on the ward’s behalf. The guardian ad litem may also be appointed to serve as attorney ad litem for the proceeding.  Citation is to be served on both the guardian and the ward, if the ward is not the applicant.  A new doctor’s letter must be obtained.

3.   HEARING - The court may hear the application, consider the evidence and find (by a preponderance of the evidence) that the ward’s incapacity warrants a modification of the guardianship and that some or all of the ward’s rights be either partially or fully restored or further restricted.

Should the court order the complete restoration of the ward, the guardian is required to immediately settle the guardianship and deliver all of the remaining guardianship estate to the ward.

 

O.  Continuing Jurisdiction After Death of the Ward

1.   JURISDICTION CONTINUES IN THE PROBATE COURT - When a Ward dies, becomes an adult, is emancipated or restored to capacity, the court exercising original probate jurisdiction continues to retain jurisdiction to settle the estate of the ward, including:

A.   actions by or against former guardian for misconduct;

B.   action by a surety against a guardian when a claim was asserted against the surety;

C.   claims for administrative expenses (attorney’s fee's, guardian’s compensation, court costs or any other matter in TEX. PROB. CODE §§665-669);

D.   matters arising out of the final accounting and discharge (TEX. PROB. CODE §§745 - 748);

E.   any other matter related to or appertaining to the estate (which will allow survival and wrongful death actions to continue in the court exercising original probate jurisdiction). TEX. PROB. CODE §606.

2. GUARDIAN MAY MAKE FINAL ARRANGEMENTS: TEX. PROB. CODE §746  On the death of a ward, before the guardianship is closed, the guardian, subject to court approval, may:

A.   make all funeral arrangements,

B.   pay for the funeral expenses out of the estate of the deceased ward, and

C.   pay all other debts out of the estate. 

 

VI. MONEY

 

A. Compensating the Guardian

1.    GENERAL RULE: TEX. PROB. CODE §665(a)

A.   Guardian of the Person: Temporary and permanent guardians of the person alone can be paid from the ward's estate or other funds available for that purpose (see below) as authorized by the court in an amount not to exceed five percent (5%) of the ward's income. The Court is to consider the ward's monthly income from all sources (excluding Social Security) and whether the ward receives Medicaid assistance.

"Other funds available for that purpose," could include trust funds, funds controlled under a power of attorney or funds from the county or State if any are made available for that purpose. (Not very likely!)

B.    Guardian of the Estate: The guardian or temporary guardian of an estate is entitled to a fee of five percent of the gross income of the ward's estate and five percent of all money paid out of the estate (the so-called “5 and 5”) upon a finding by the court that the guardian or temporary guardian has taken care of the managed estate in compliance with the standards of the chapter.

2.    LIMITATIONS ON COMPENSATION

A.   Cap on Total Aggregate Fee Allowed: The total compensation paid to the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate may not exceed five percent of the gross income of the ward's estate plus five percent of all money paid out of the estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §665(c).

B.    Management of Estate in Compliance with Code: Overlaying any approval of compensation for a guardian is the requirement that the court be able to make the finding that the guardian has “taken care of the managed the estate in compliance with the standards of the probate code,” otherwise, no compensation is to be allowed. TEX. PROB. CODE §665(b).

C.   Exclusions from "Income": Unlike a decedent’s estate, the guardian’s compensation is not measured by "sums actually received in cash", but is limited to a portion of the ward's "income".

The courts have been clear that not all funds received are “income.”  The following have been found not to be income and therefore not to be considered in calculating the guardian's compensation:

1.    Note Principal collected by the guardian - Pemberton v. Leatherwood, 218 S.W.2d 500 (Tex. App. Eastland, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

2.    Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits - TEX. PROB. CODE §665(h)(1).

3.    Cash Proceeds Received on the sale of the ward's real estate.  Guardianship of Rehberg, 745 S.W.2d 435 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1988, no writ).

4.    Veterans War Risk Insurance  Gilbert v. Hines, 32 S.W.2d 876 (Tex. Civ. App.-Dallas 1930, no writ).

5.    Pension Benefits payable to a minor beneficiary are "corpus" and not "income" and cannot be expended without court order.  Bagwell v. McCombs, 31 S.W.2d 835 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1930, no writ); Anderson v. Steddum, 194 S.W. 1132 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1917), aff'd, 222 S.W. 1090 (Tex. Comm. App. 1920, holding approved); Ross v. United States, supra, rev'd on other grounds, 348 F.2d 577 (5th Cir. 1965).

6.    Social Security Benefits  TEX. PROB. CODE §665(h)(1).

7.    Distributions of Trust Corpus  Henderson v. Viesca, 922 S.W.2d 553 (Tex. App. San Antonio 1996, pet. denied)

 

D.   Exclusions from "Money Paid Out" TEX. PROB. CODE §665(h)(2) -  Similarly, "money paid out" is not simply any disbursement made of estate funds. "Money paid out" specifically does NOT include:

1.    Money Loaned,

2.    Money Invested,

3.    Sums Distributed on settlement of the guardianship or

4.    Tax-Motivated gifts made on behalf of the ward.

5.          Funds Withdrawn from the Court's Registry by a custodian under TEX. PROB. CODE §887.

3.    COMPENSATION ABOVE THE STATUTORY FORMULA

A.   Lookback: The court may review the amount of the compensation (under the 5 & 5 rule) on its own motion or on the motion of an interested person, and may increase the amount if the court finds that the amount is unreasonably low considering the services rendered by the guardian or temporary guardian of the estate.  TEX. PROB. CODE §665

B.    Unreasonably Low?: Should the guardian believe that the statutory compensation formula as applied to a particular guardianship is unreasonably low (per TEX. PROB. CODE §665), then he or she should submit, with the annual or final account, contemporaneous time records of the fiduciary services for which additional hourly compensation is requested above the statutory fee.  It is possible for the court to authorize reasonable additional compensation

C.   Hourly Rate: The fact that compensation under the "5 & 5 rule" is less than the guardian's usual or customary charges (hourly rate) is not enough to establish a finding of unreasonably low compensation.

Attorneys or Corporate fiduciaries serving as guardians of the estate are not allowed to simply charge their usual or customary charges (whether hourly rates or fee schedule amounts) as compensation.

4.   WHEN COMPENSATION TO BE ALLOWED - The guardian or temporary guardian of the estate is entitled to reasonable compensation on application to the court at the time the court approves the annual or final account.  Applications are not to be made except annually, at the time of the annual or final account. TEX. PROB. CODE ANN. §665.

5.   FORFEITURE OF COMPENSATION - The court may also, either on its own motion or on complaint of an interested person, deny a fee in whole, or in part.

A.   Wrongful Conduct. The court can, in its discretion, deny any guardian compensation when the guardian has been found to be guilty of wrongful conduct in managing the ward's estate.  See generally, Guardianship and Conservatorship, 42 TEX. JUR. 3rd §262 and cases cited therein.

B.    Denial: The court may deny the guardian's fee in whole or in part if he has not taken care of and managed the estate prudently TEX. PROB. CODE §665, or if the guardian has been removed under TEX. PROB. CODE §761.

C.   Failure to Account:  A guardian is not entitled to a commission when he knowingly fails to account for the funds of the estate.  Moroney v. Moroney, 280 S.W. 254 (Tex. App.-Waco 1925), reformed and affirmed, 286 S.W. 167 (Tex. Comm. App. 1926);  American Surety Co. of New York v. Hardwick, 185 S.W.2d 235 (Tex. App.-Galveston 1945, writ ref'd).

D.   No Harm, No Foul?: A guardian who invests the ward's funds without court approval is entitled to guardian's commission if his acts caused no loss to the estate.  Legler v. Legler, 189 S. W. 2d 505 (Tex. App. - Austin 1945, writ ref'd w.o.m.)

 

I.    Attorney’s Fees

1.    BASIC PREMISE: Absent specific statutory authorization, the probate court cannot award attorney's fees.

2.    REASONABLE AND NECESSARY FEES - The guardian is entitled to reimbursement of reasonable attorney's fees and expenses necessarily incurred in connection with the proceedings and management of the ward's estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §§665A, 665B, 666 and 669

3.   APPLICATION FOR PAYMENT - For the court to award fees, the attorney representing the guardian must file an Application for Payment of Fees and Expenses

The application must include a detailed and itemized narrative statement (including the hourly rate) as an exhibit, with a proposed order attached. TEX. PROB. CODE §667, Woollett v. Matyastik, 23 S.W.3d 48 (Tex.App.-Austin, 2000, pet denied)

There must be a showing that the attorney's services were reasonable and necessary for the preservation, management, and safekeeping of the estate.

CAVEAT: Attorneys wishing to charge their ‘usual and customary’ hourly rates are well-advised to clear it through the court first or the guardian may be forced to seek a disgorgement of excess (disallowed) fees paid (or make it up to the estate if it cannot be resolved) 

4.   PUBLISHED POLICIES - Many courts have adopted stated policies regarding attorneys fees.  These standards are not absolute rules; the Court will usually make exceptions in particular circumstances as fairness and justice demand. For example, the Travis County Probate Court’s Attorney Fee policies can be referenced at www.co.travis.tx.us/pdfs/attorneysfees.pdf.

5.   ELEMENTS TO DETERMINE REASON-ABLENESS - The same criteria used to determine the reasonableness of attorneys fees in general applies to determine ad litem fees.  They are variously known as the “ABA Factors,” the “Andersen” or the “Garcia” factors.  Arthur Andersen v. Perry Equip. Corp., 945 S.W.2d 812, 818 (Tex. 1997); Garcia v. Martinez, 988 S.W.2d 219 (Tex. 1999): TEX. DISCIPLINARY R. PROF'L CONDUCT 1.04(b), reprinted in TEX. GOV'T CODE, tit. 2, subtit. G, app. A (TEX. STATE BAR. art. X, §  9):

6.   HOURLY RATES - The hourly rates allowed will vary, depending on the nature of the case and the experience of the attorneys involved.  Rates may vary from $150/hr for no-asset, county-pay cases to $200+/hr for complex litigation (wrongful death/ malpractice/ fiduciary breach).

An attorney’s hourly rate is expected to cover the office overhead (everything except actual out-of-pocket expenses such as filing fees) The court considers the following to be overhead and not separately billable (or compensable): copy expense / delivery and courier services / postage and faxes / long-distance telephone / electronic legal research / library maintenance / secretarial services (not Legal Assistants – see infra).

7.   EXPENSES - Separate expenses and travel costs should be detailed in attached as exhibits.  Check your mileage with one of the online map services like Yahoo or Mapquest.  If you don't, the court may.

8.    RED FLAGS - Do not bill for:

A.   Consultations with court staff regarding procedural questions unless the court staff has specifically requested information to be provided not ordinarily contained in properly drafted pleadings or if the fee petition reveals special circumstances requiring the attorney to seek guidance from the Court.

B.   Telephone calls inquiring about the status/location of paperwork with probate court staff or the Clerk’s office. Attaching a self-addressed, stamped envelope to all applications and proposed orders coupled with payment of any required filing and posting fee will help ensure that attorneys receive conformed copies of all proposed orders and will reduce the necessity for calls to the Clerk’s office to check on the status of a particular order.

C.   Portal-to-portal time plus mileage!

D.   Preparing claims for creditors (conflict of interest!)

9.    FORFEITURE OF ATTORNEY'S FEES - The conduct of the guardian or attorney may cause a forfeiture of attorney's fees.

10.  INCAPACITATED CLIENT - An attorney retained by a ward who had been adjudicated to be of unsound mind could not recover fees for legal services in a guardianship contest.  Breaux v. Allied Bank of Texas, 699 S.W.2d 599 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1985, writ ref'd n.r.e.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1002 (1986).

11.  MALFEASANCE OF GUARDIAN - When the guardian's omission or malfeasance is at the root of the litigation, the estate will not be required to reimburse the guardian for his attorney's fees.  Tindall v. State of Texas, 671 S.W.2d 691 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

12.  REMOVED GUARDIAN - A guardian who is removed is not entitled to attorney's fees in defending his acts or for attempts to retain appointment.  Gordon v. Terrence, 633 S.W.2d 649 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1982, no writ); Dumitrow v. Hitt, 601 S.W.2d 472 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1980, writ ref'd n.r.e.).

13.  SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE - A guardian who successfully defends against a removal action is entitled to attorney's fees.  Moore v. First City Bank, 707 S.W.2d 286 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1986, no writ).

14   GUARDIAN'S OWN CLAIM - A guardian is not entitled to attorney's fees in the prosecution of his own claim against the estate.  Oldham v. Keaton, 597 S.W.2d 938 (Tex. Civ. App.-Texarkana 1980, writ ref'd n.r.e).

15.  UNNECESSARY LITIGATION - The guardian may not recover attorney's fees for unfounded and unnecessary litigation instituted by him.  Neblett v. Butler, 162 S.W.2d 458 (Tex. App.-Galveston 1942, writ ref'd w.o.m.).

16.  DUAL COMPENSATION: ATTORNEY/ GUARDIAN - When an attorney is appointed as guardian, there must normally be an election either to seek payment calculated on the statutory commission formula or to obtain reimbursement for attorney’s fees.

A.  If the guardianship is particularly complex, the Court may approve dual compensation upon request of the attorney, preferably at the time of appointment.

B.   Dual compensation would include payment at the appropriate hourly rate for legal services rendered and a separate calculation of the statutory commission for the guardian under TEX. PROB. CODE §665.  Henderson v Viesca, 922 S.W.2d 553 (Tex. App. San Antonio 1996, writ denied); Epstein v. Hutchison, 175 S. W. 3d 805 (Tex. App. - Houston - 1st District, 2004, pet. denied)

C.   To be entitled to dual compensation, the attorney-fiduciary must:

1.    make full disclosure of the attorney-fiduciary’s request for dual compensation at the time of appointment or upon motion and hearing if the request for dual compensation is later made.  If the request is after the time of appointment, notice of the motion and hearing shall be given to all interested parties who have made an appearance in the case.

2.    keep meticulous time and expense records, carefully segregating legal and non-legal work.

3.    clearly segregate the rendition of legal services from fiduciary services. (For example: obtaining a bond, gathering estate assets, or making healthcare decisions for a ward have all been determined to be fiduciary services, not legal services.) Henderson, supra; Epstein, supra

D.   The hourly fee approved by the Court for fiduciary services (whether rendered by an attorney/fiduciary or professional guardian) is generally significantly less than the Court-approved hourly rates for legal services.

17.  SPECIFIC AREAS OF CONCERN ON FEE APPLICATIONS

A. Contingent Fees – Be aware that there are limitations on contingent fee agreements in guardianship – see the Ad Litem Manual.

B.   Legal Assistants - The value of legal work performed by legal assistants may be recovered as an element of attorney's fees.  Gill Sav. Ass’n v. Int’l Supply, 759 S.W.2d 697, 702 (Tex. App. Dallas 1988, wr. denied) The proof required for billings by legal assistants is set forth in detail in that opinion.

1.   Information regarding the certification program of the Legal Assistants Division, State Bar of Texas at their website: txpd.org or on the State Bar of Texas website.

2.   The Court may request proof of the legal assistant’s qualifications to determine the appropriate rate for the legal assistant.  Such proof may be demonstrated through:

a.    Certification as a paralegal by the NALA, or recognition as a PACE—Registered Paralegal, or successful completion of a legal assistant program, or possession of a post-secondary degree (B.A. degree or higher);

b.   Number of years experience in the probate, estate planning, and guardianship field;

c.   Certification in Estate Planning and Probate Law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; and

d.   Number of continuing legal education courses in probate, guardianship, and estate planning attended recently.

C.   Research: Attorneys practicing in this area should be familiar with general probate and guardianship matters; therefore, the Court will not ordinarily reimburse attorneys for basic legal research in these areas.  The contract costs of computerized legal research (Westlaw and Lexis) are a part of an attorney’s overhead, as are the costs of a hard-copy library. These costs are not reimbursable. Goodyear-Dunlop, supra. Reimbursement may be allowed for necessary and reasonable legal research conducted to address novel legal questions or to respond to legal issues posed by the Court or opposing counsel.

D.   Fee Hearings: The Court will not allow reimbursement for the costs of hearings or appeals relating to collectability of fees.  These are expenditures for the benefit of the attorney and not for the preservation, management, and safekeeping of the estate. Goodyear-Dunlop supra.

E.   Fee Applications Filed as Claims: Fee applications should be filed as separate pleadings.  Requests for fees should never be “imbedded” in some other pleading.  Applications for payment of fees or reimbursement of fees should not be filed as claims against the estate unless the estate is insolvent or the Guardian has indicated they will refuse to pay when application is made. 

Query: Why take the chance that you may caught in the claims process and have to file suit for your fees when you can simply apply for the fees and meet any questions head-on?  In re Archer, 2004 Tex. App. LEXIS 327 (Tex. App. San Antonio 2004, pet. denied)

F. Malfeasance of Guardian: When the guardian's omission or malfeasance necessitates the expenditure of legal time, the estate will not be required to reimburse the guardian for his attorney's fees.  Tindall v. State of Texas, 671 S.W.2d 691 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.).  Costs of compliance are properly recovered from the executor, administrator or guardian and their bond sureties. Estate of Hawkins, 187 S.W.3d 182 (Tex. App. Fort Worth 2006, no pet.)

G. Your Bad - No billings should be submitted for responding to the requests of court staff (including the court auditor) where the paperwork submitted is not in compliance with the probate code or established court policy, nor for responding to notices from the court on compliance problems or attending" show cause " hearings docketed to obtain compliance with code requirements.

 

C. Ad Litem Fees

Both the Attorney ad Litem and the Guardian ad Litem are to be paid from the ward’s estate, if there is one, and if not from the funds of the county. TEX. PROB. CODE §665. For much more information regarding ad litem fees, see The Ad Litem Manual on the Tarrant County Probate Court website, infra

VII.  DEATH, RESIGNATION OR REMOVAL

 

1.    Death

If the guardian dies, the court may immediately appoint a successor guardian without citation upon a finding of an immediate need.  The legal representative of the deceased guardian is to file the guardian’s final account and deliver all estate assets to the successor guardian.  TEX. PROB. CODE §759(a).

 

2.   Resignation

A.   METHOD - A guardian may resign by filing a written application, accompanied by a verified final account (TEX. PROB. CODE §760(a)) with citation by posting unless the court directs that it be by publication. TEX. PROB. CODE §760(c).

B.    ACCEPTANCE OF RESIGNATION - The court may immediately accept the resignation and appoint a successor. TEX. PROB. CODE §760(b).

C. DISCHARGE - A guardian who has filed his resignation and final account is not discharged until the court has approved the final account and all estate assets are delivered to the successor guardian  The bond surety remains liable and cannot be discharged until the guardian is discharged. TEX. PROB. CODE §760(e).

 

3.    Removal

      The court or any interested person may move for the removal of the guardian for specified reasons set out in the Probate Code.  TEX. PROB. CODE §761.

A.   WITHOUT NOTICE:  Under TEX. PROB. CODE ANN. §761(a), the court may remove a guardian without notice, if he:

1.    Neglects to qualify within 20 days;

2.    Fails to file an inventory within 90 days, Prince v. Ladd, 15 S.W. 159 (Tex. 1890);

3.    Fails to give a new bond when ordered to do so;

4.    Absents himself from the state for three months or moves out of the state without court permission;

5.    Cannot be served with notices or his whereabouts are unknown, or is eluding service;

6.    Has misapplied, embezzled, or removed from the state all or any part of the property committed to his care; or

7.   Has cruelly treated the ward.

B.   WITH NOTICE: TEX. PROB. CODE §761(b) After notice by personal service, the court, on its own motion, or the motion of any interested person, may remove the guardian, when:

1.    It appears that the guardian has or is about to misapply, embezzle, or remove from the state any property of the estate;

2.    The guardian fails to return any account due;

3.    The guardian fails to obey a court order;

4.    The guardian is proved guilty of gross misconduct or mismanagement;

5.    The guardian becomes incapacitated, is sent to the penitentiary, or becomes incapable of performing his duties;

6.    The guardian of the person cruelly treats the ward or neglects to educate or maintain the ward;

7.    The guardian interferes with the ward's progress or participation in programs in the community; or

8.    The guardian is a private professional guardian and fails to apply annually to the clerk for certification.

9.    Joint guardians divorce and the court determines the continuation of the guardianship with only one guardian is in the best interest of the ward.

10.  The guardian would be inelegible for appointment as a guardian under TEX. PROB. CODE §681.  TEX. PROB. CODE §697

C.   ADDITIONAL GROUNDS FOR REMOVAL: The guardian may also be removed for:

1.   Failure to endorse allowance or rejection to a claim within 30 days.  TEX. PROB. CODE §797

2.    Wrongful purchase of a claim against the estate.  TEX. PROB. CODE §807;

3.    Neglect to file a deed of trust securing a lien on ward’s real property.  TEX. PROB. CODE §837.

4.    Prior Right: When a person with a prior right applies to act as guardian and they have not waived such right, the court shall remove the previous guardian.  A prior right to be guardian may, however, be waived either expressly or by conduct.

5.    Minor Over 14 Years: A minor, upon attaining the age of 14, may select another guardian with the court's approval and personal service on the guardian.  TEX. PROB. CODE §680(b).

6.    Named Guardian Becomes an Adult: If a guardian named in a will was not an adult when the will was probated, he may, upon becoming an adult, apply to be guardian and the court shall revoke any prior letters.  TEX. PROB. CODE §759(c)

 



Appendix A

GUARDIANSHIP SUMMARY

 


OVERVIEW

 

I.        What is a guardianship?

II.     When is a guardianship necessary?

III.   How does one get a guardianship started?

IV.   Who will serve as guardian?

V.      How is the guardianship supervised?

 

INTRODUCTION

Legislative changes that began in 1993 have completely overhauled the guardianship process in Texas.  The guardianship laws are now found in the Texas Probate Code (“TPC”), Sections 601 – 905.  The Courts are now required to customize each guardianship to fit the needs of an incapacitated person.  The Courts are also required to supervise guardianships more closely and are given three methods to do so:

1.       Guardian of the Person Reports;

2.       The Court Visitor Program; and

3.       Annual Determination.

 

This supervision is in addition to the auditing process that is mandated if the incapacitated person has an estate.

Statutory Probate Courts also employ Court Investigators who review guardianship applications to determine if less restrictive alternatives to guardianship are available, investigate complaints about guardianships and generally act as a liaison between the public, social workers, attorneys and the Court.

 

I.    WHAT IS A GUARDIANSHIP?

A.   Basic Definition  A guardianship is a Court supervised procedure where the Court gives one person the legal authority to make personal or financial decisions for a person who can no longer make such decisions for himself or herself.

B.   Incapacitated Person  A person for whom a guardianship is necessary is known as an “incapacitated person” (“IP”) which is defined in TPC 601(14) to mean a minor or an adult individual who,

1.   because of a physical or mental condition,

2.   is substantially unable:

      a.    to provide food, clothing or shelter for himself or herself; or

      b.   to care for the individual’s own physical health; or

      c.   to manage the individual’s own financial affairs.

C.   Policy – Purpose of Guardianship  Unless a Court determines that a guardian with full authority over an IP is necessary, the Court should limit the authority of the guardian so that it is the least restrictive authority possible.  Section 602 of the TPC provides that:

1.   A court may appoint a guardian with full authority over an IP; or

2.   A court may appoint a guardian with limited authority over an IP:

a.    As indicated by the incapacitated person’s actual mental or physical limitations, and

b.   Only as necessary to promote and protect the well-being of the person.

3.   Except for minors, the Court may not use age as the sole factor in determining whether to appoint a guardian for the person.

4.   In creating a guardianship that gives a guardian limited power or authority over an IP, the Court shall design the guardianship to encourage the development or maintenance of maximum self-reliance and independence in the incapacitated person.

D.   Guardian  A guardian is the person who accepts the Court’s appointment to be responsible for making decisions for the IP.  A guardian has only those powers specified in the Order Appointing Guardian.  Generally, two types of guardians exist:

      1.   Guardian of the Person – A guardian of the person has the:

      a.    right to have physical possession of the IP and to establish the IP’s legal domicile;

      b.   duty of care, control and protection of the IP;

      c.   duty to provide the IP with clothing, food, medical care and shelter; and

      d.   power to consent to medical, psychiatric, and surgical treatment other than the in-patient psychiatric commitment of the IP.

      2.   Guardian of the Estate – A guardian of the estate of the IP has the following powers and duties:

      a.    to possess and manage all property of the IP;

      b.   to collect all debts, rentals or claims that are due to the IP;

      c.   to enforce all obligations in favor of the IP; and

      d.   to bring and defend suits by and against the IP.

 

II.  WHEN IS A GUARDIANSHIP NECESSARY?

A.   Common Situations mental retardation, Alzheimer’s dementia, multi-infarct dementia, Down’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, closed head injuries, chronic mental illness, excessive short term memory loss.

 

B.   Guardianship Not Used  treatable mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, spendthrifts, persons receiving only social security benefits (no Guardian of the Estate is necessary).

C.   Less Restrictive Alternatives  Court Investigators are to investigate the circumstances of each application to determine if a less restrictive alternative to guardianship is available.  In counties without a Court Investigator, the attorney ad litem for the IP should examine these alternatives.  A list of some of the most common Less Restrictive Alternatives is attached to this paper.

 

III. HOW DOES ONE GET A GUARDIANSHIP STARTED?

A.   Courts  Statutory Probate Courts, County Courts at Law and County Courts (in that order) have jurisdiction of guardianship cases.

B.   Attorneys  Most Courts will allow only attorneys to file a guardianship application.  In an ideal situation, a concerned family member will contact an attorney to file an application to be appointed as guardian of an IP.

C.   Court Initiated Guardianships  The Texas Probate Code provides that “if a Court has probable cause to believe that a person domiciled or found in the county in which the Court is located is an incapacitated person, and the person does not have a guardian in this state, the Court shall appoint a guardian ad litem or a court investigator to investigate and file an application for  the appointment of a guardian of the person or estate, or both, of the person believed to be incapacitated.”

      In Tarrant County, the Courts require an information letter and a doctor’s letter to establish probable cause.  If the IP’s incapacity is mental retardation, the Court must be provided with a Determination of Mental Retardation or “DMR” pursuant to §687(c) of the Texas Probate Code.  This section states that if the basis of the Proposed Ward’s incapacity is mental retardation a physician or psychologist shall conduct an examination according to the rules adopted by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and shall submit written findings and recommendations to the Court.  This report must be based upon an examination conducted not earlier than twenty-four months before the date of a hearing to appoint a guardian for the proposed ward.  Unless the IP is in imminent danger, Court Initiated Guardianships take at least 4 to 6 weeks from the date the Court receives the proper letters.

D.   Social Worker Involvement

      1.   Adult Protective Services  If there is concern that an adult is being abused, exploited or neglected, Adult Protect Services should be called (1-800-252-5400).  APS sends a worker to investigate.  If APS believes a guardianship is necessary, the worker will take a doctor to examine the IP.  If no emergency action is necessary, APS should make a referral to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services for a guardianship investigation.

      2.   Nursing Home and Hospital Social Workers  Social Workers at nursing homes and at hospitals have also used the court initiated guardianship procedure to begin the guardianship process for clients or patients who are IP.  Hospital discharge planners should determine if the patient is an IP as soon as possible since the procedure may take a while.  Stating that the IP will be in imminent danger when discharged is not considered imminent danger by most courts.

E.   Guardian Appointment Process

      1.   Application for Guardianship is filed by a private attorney, guardian ad litem or court investigator.  Only attorneys can file applications.

      2.   The Sheriff or Constable personally serves the IP with a copy of the Application.

      3.   The Court appoints an Attorney Ad Litem to represent and advocate for the IP.

      4.   The known relatives of the IP must receive statutory notice of the application.

      5.   Unless the application is for the appointment of a temporary guardian, the guardianship cannot be established until the Monday following ten days from the date the IP is personally served.

      6.   The Attorney ad litem must personally visit the IP and determine if the IP wants to contest the guardianship.

      7.   The applicant’s attorney must file a doctor’s letter with the court which states that the IP is incapacitated and generally describes the nature of the incapacity.

      8.   A hearing date is set with the Court.  The IP must attend the hearing unless the Court determines that it is not in the best interests of the IP to attend.

      9.   The Judge or jury hears testimony and decides if a guardianship is necessary, what powers the guardian should have, how the IP’s rights should be limited and whether the person seeking to be appointed guardian is suitable.

      10.  The Judge then signs an Order Appointing Guardian.  The Guardian must file an Oath and Bond in order to qualify.  The Clerk then issues Letters of Guardianship to the guardian.

 

IV.                                                    WHO WILL SERVE AS GUARDIAN?

Statutory Priority  Texas Probate Code, Section 677 provides a legal priority as follows:

      1.   a person selected by IP on a declaration of guardian;

      2.   IP’s spouse;

      3.   nearest of kin;

      4.   any suitable person.

 

V.   GUARDIANSHIP MONITORING

A.   Annual Reports  A guardian of the person is required to file a guardian of the person report each year concerning the IP’s mental and physical condition and stating any change of the IP’s or guardian’s residence.  A guardian of the estate is required to file an annual account stating all receipts, disbursements, cash on hand, and assets being administrated.  Failure to file either of these reports may lead to fines and/or removal.

B.   Court Visitor Program  Each statutory probate court is required to establish a Court Visitor Program.  As a part of this program a volunteer makes an annual visit on each IP who is the subject of a guardianship.  The Court Visitor personally visits the IP and the guardian and reports his or her findings and conclusions to the Court concerning the IP’s social and intellectual functioning as well as living conditions.  If the Court Visitor recommends an increase or decrease in the guardian’s powers or removal of the guardian or guardianship, the Court will appoint a Court Investigator or Guardian ad litem to investigate, and, if necessary, to file a petition to modify the guardianship order or to remove the guardian or guardianship.

C.   Annual Determination  Each Court is required to make an annual review and determination of whether a guardianship should be continued, modified or terminated.  In making this annual determination, the Court reviews the Court Visitor report and the guardian of the person report.

 



Appendix B:                   PHYSICIAN'S CERTIFICATE OF MEDICAL EXAM

 

In the Matter of the Guardianship                            For Court Use Only

of ____________________________,                            Court Assigned:__________________

an Alleged Incapacitated Person

TO PHYSICIAN

The purpose of this form is to enable the Court to determine whether the individual identified above is incapacitated according to the legal definition, and whether this person:

A.   is able to attend a Court hearing to determine whether a guardian should be appointed to care for him or her.

B.   has the capacity to give informed consent to medical treatment.

C.   has dementia and, if so, (1) whether he or she needs to be placed in a secured facility for the elderly or a facility that provides dementia treatment and (2) whether he or she needs or would benefit from dementia medications.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Physician’s Name:    _____________________________________ Phone: (____)___________

Office Address:         ____________________________________________________________

                                    ____________________________________________________________

 

c  YES    c  NO      I am a physician currently licensed to practice in the State of Texas.

 

Proposed Ward’s Name:________________________________________________________

 

I last examined the Proposed Ward on ________________________________, 20_____ at:

c Medical facility  c the Proposed Ward's residence c Other:_____________________

c  YES    c  NO      The Proposed Ward is under my continuing treatment.

c  YES    c  NO      Prior to the examination, I informed the Proposed Ward that communications with me would not be privileged.

c  YES    c  NO      A mini-mental status exam was given. If “yes,” please attach a copy.

 

DEFINITION OF INCAPACITY For purposes of this certificate, the following definition applies: An "Incapacitated Person" is “an adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing or shelter for himself or herself, to care for the individual's own physical health, or to manage the individual's own financial affairs.” Texas Probate Code §601(13)

 

Based upon your last examination of the Proposed Ward, please provide the following information:

 

1. EVALUATION OF CAPACITY

c  YES                c  NO            Based on the information above, it is my opinion that the Proposed Ward is incapacitated according to the given definition.

If “YES,” please indicate the level of incapacity

c PARTIAL         c TOTAL       If incapacitation is total, please proceed to paragraph 2.

If incapacitation is partial, please respond to the following:

 

PHYSICIAN'S CERTIFICATE OF MEDICAL EXAM                                         Page 2

In my opinion, the Proposed Ward is able to personally initiate, handle or make responsible decisions concerning himself or herself regarding:

      c  YES    c  NO      A.  business and managerial matters (to contract and incur obligations; handle a bank account, apply for, consent to and receive governmental benefits and services; accept employment; hire employees; sue and defend on lawsuits.)?

      c  YES    c  NO      B.  If A is ‘YES’, should amount deposited in such bank account be limited?

      c  YES    c  NO      C.  safely operate a motor vehicle?

                                          D.  personal living decisions:

      c  YES    c  NO            1. determine residence?

      c  YES    c  NO            2. vote in a public election?

      c  YES    c  NO            3. determine marital status (marry)?

      c  YES    c  NO      E.  consent to medical, dental, psychological and psychiatric treatment?

 

2. EVALUATION OF THE PROPOSED WARD’S PHYSICAL CONDITION

      Physical Diagnosis:  _________________________________________________________

      a.   Prognosis:     ____________________________________________________________

      b.   Severity:                     c  Mild           c  Moderate       c  Severe

      c.   Treatment:      ____________________________________________________________

 

3. EVALUATION OF THE PROPOSED WARD’S MENTAL FUNCTION

      Mental Diagnosis:     _________________________________________________________

      a.   Prognosis:     ____________________________________________________________

      b.   Severity:                     c  Mild           c  Moderate       c  Severe

      c.   Treatment:      ____________________________________________________________

 

A.  Alertness, Attention and Deficits

1. Alertness                c        Alert                c  Lethargic        c  Stupor

2. Orientation                         c  Person      c  Time               c  Place        c  Situation

3. Deficits (check all that apply)

      c  short-term memory    c long-term memory                  c immediate recall

      c  Ability to understand and communicate (verbally or otherwise)

      c  Ability to recognize familiar objects and persons

      c  Ability to perform simple calculations

      c  Ability to grasp abstract aspects of his or her situation or to interpret idiomatic expressions or proverbs

      c  Ability to break complex tasks down into simple steps and carry them out

      c  Ability to reason logically

      c  Ability to attend to activities of daily living (ADL’s)

      c  Ability to administer own medications on a daily basis

 

4.   c  YES    c  NO      The Proposed Ward’s periods of impairment from the deficits indicated above (if any) vary substantially in frequency, severity, or duration

 


PHYSICIAN'S CERTIFICATE OF MEDICAL EXAM                                         Page 3

 

B.  Dementia/Senility (cognitive loss)

The Texas Probate Code § 687 provides, in pertinent part: The court may not grant an application to create a guardianship for an incapacitated person unless the Applicant presents to the court a written letter or certificate from a physician.  The letter or certificate must describe the precise physical and mental conditions underlying a diagnosis of senility, if applicable.

 

Based upon my examination, it is my opinion that:

      c  YES    c  NO   the Proposed Ward has a diagnosis of dementia/senility. (If ‘YES,’ complete the following).

      c  YES    c  NO   the Proposed Ward would benefit from placement in a secured facility for the elderly or a secured nursing facility that specializes in the care and treatment of people with dementia.

      c  YES    c  NO   the Proposed Ward would benefit from medications appropriate to the care and treatment of dementia.

      c  YES    c  NO   the Proposed Ward has sufficient capacity to give informed consent to the administration of dementia medications.

 

4.   DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY

      c  YES    c  NO      Does the Proposed Ward have developmental disability?

If ‘YES’, is the disability a result of:

      c  YES    c  NO      mental retardation?

      c  YES    c  NO      autism?

 

Supplement:            If mental retardation is the sole basis of the incapacity, Texas Probate Code §687 requires that the Proposed Ward be examined by a physician or psychologist and that such examination be conducted according to the rules adopted by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (a ‘Determination of Mental Retardation’).

 

5. ABILITY TO ATTEND COURT HEARING

If a hearing on an application for the appointment of a guardian is scheduled in court:

      c  YES    c  NO      The Proposed Ward would be able to attend, understand and participate in the hearing.

      c  YES    c  NO      Because of his or her incapacities, the Proposed Ward's appearance at a Court hearing is not advisable because the Proposed Ward will not be able to understand or participate in the hearing.

 

7.         If you have any remarks concerning other sections, or if you believe the Court should also be aware of other concerns about the Proposed Ward which are not included above, please explain: ____________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

            Date: _________________                                   __________________________________

Physician's Signature

Revised September 13, 2007


Appendix C:                                           Waiver of Citation, Consent to Appointment

 

No.________

 

Guardianship of                                                            §                                  Probate Court

§

                                                           ,                        §                                  Number One

§

An Incapacitated Person                                               §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

Waiver of Citation & Right to be Appointed Guardian

& Consent to Applicant’s Appointment as Guardian

 

 

STATE OF TEXAS                                            §

§

COUNTY OF                                                     §

 

BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, on this day appeared Affiant and, after being duly sworn, upon his (her) oath, deposes and says:

 

1.  “My name is _______________________________________.

 

2.  I have read the Application for Appointment of a Guardian of the Person (and Estate) of _________________________ Proposed Ward, filed by ___________________________.

 

3.  I am related to Proposed Ward in that I am his (her) __________________________.

 

4.  I have read the aforementioned Application for Appointment of Guardian.

 

5.  I hereby waive the service of citation in this matter and I do not wish to receive notice from the Court or any party to this action of any further proceedings herein.

 

6.  Additionally, I waive my right to be appointed Guardian of Proposed Ward and I consent to the appointment of ______________________________ as Guardian of Proposed Ward.“

 

______________________________

Affiant

Name Printed:____________________

 

SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED BEFORE ME on                                                        .

 

______________________________

Notary


Appendix D:                                                       No. ___________

 

Guardianship of                                                           §                                  Probate Court

                                                                                    §

______________________,                                             §                                  Number One of

                                                                                    §

An Alleged Incapacitated Person                                  §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

Application For The Appointment

of a Guardian of The Person (And Estate)

Pursuant To §683, Texas Probate Code

 

TO THE HONORABLE JUDGE OF SAID COURT:

 

NOW COMES                                   , Applicant and Guardian Ad Litem, and pursuant to §683 of the Texas Probate Code, files this Application for the appointment of a suitable person to serve as Guardian of the person (and estate) of                                              , Proposed Ward, and, in support thereof, represents to the Court as follows:

 

   1.Proposed Incapacitated Person. Proposed Ward is a            year old, (race), adult/minor (fe)male whose date of birth is                        , whose social security number is                       , and whose Driver’s License number is                         .  (S)he is an incapacitated person as defined in §601(13)(A-D), Texas Probate Code.  Proposed Ward is located at                                                 , Tarrant County, Texas, _____ where (s)he can be served.  Proposed Ward is in the care and custody of ___________________ whose address is                                               and to whom Applicant has mailed a copy of this Application by certified mail, return receipt requested.

   2.Proposed Guardian. Applicant requests that the Court appoint a suitable person to serve as Guardian of the person (and estate) of Proposed Ward. The names, addresses and telephone numbers of the Proposed Ward’s adult relatives, if any, are listed immediately below: 

Name                                  Relationship to Proposed Ward    Address     Telephone number

Applicant recommends that                                        , Proposed Guardian, as a suitable person to be appointed Guardian for the Proposed Ward. Proposed Guardian’s social security number is________. (Proposed Guardian’s relationship to Proposed Ward, address and telephone number are to be provided here.)

   3.Nature of the Incapacity. The Physician’s Certificate of Dr.                                   is attached to the Motion to Appoint Guardian Ad Litem filed previously in this cause, is dated within 120 days of the filing of this Application and is based upon an examination the physician performed not earlier than 120 days from the date this Application was filed. A developmental disability is (not) the basis, at least in part, of the physician’s diagnosis of incapacity. (If a developmental disability such as mental retardation or autism does form the basis for the physician’s diagnosis, then a supplemental report of an examination of the Proposed Ward, conducted in accordance with MHMR guidelines, must be attached to the Physician’s Certificate.) 

   4.Specific Areas of Protection and Assistance Requested. Applicant requests Proposed Guardian be granted the full powers allowed under the Texas Probate Code. (If a Limited Guardianship is sought, list only those powers which are appropriate.)

   5.Limitation of Rights Requested. Applicant requests the rights of Proposed Ward be fully limited.  In addition, the Applicant herein seeks to take away the right of the adult proposed ward to vote in a public election and to hold or obtain a license to operate a motor vehicle. (If a Limited Guardianship is sought, limit only those rights which are appropriate. If the Proposed Ward’s right to drive is being removed, provide the Proposed Ward’s Driver’s License number.)

   6.Estate. Proposed Ward owns the following real and personal property:

Property                                          %Interest Owned                                          $Value

 


Proposed Ward receives the following income each month:

Income Source                                $Monthly Income                                           $Annual Income

(Include income from social security here, however, if social security benefits are the sole source of revenue, then a guardianship of the estate is unnecessary.  However, If there is a representative payee or Veteran’s benefits fiduciary, set forth the name and address.)

   7.Miscellaneous. Applicant requests the term of the guardianship to be not less than one year. To the Applicant’s knowledge, there is no guardianship established for Proposed Ward in this or any other state. (If the Proposed Ward is a minor, inform the Court of any legal or conservatorship proceedings within a 2-year period and state “the guardianship is not created for the purpose of enabling the Ward to establish residency for enrollment in a school or school district for which the Ward is not otherwise eligible for enrollment”.) To the Applicant’s knowledge, (no one)/                               holds a Power of Attorney signed by Proposed Ward. (If a POA exists, provide the agent’s address and telephone number, the type of POA and the date on which it was executed.) Venue is proper in this county because Proposed Ward was located (resided/had his principal estate) here at the time this Application was filed.

   8.Other Relevant Facts. (Report how you came to the conclusion that a guardianship was necessary and any other information you deem important. Do not include a request for attorney’s fees with this Application. Attorney’s fees are to be requested in a separate Application which is presented to the Court at the hearing.)

 

WHEREFORE, Applicant respectfully requests the Court to issue notice of this Application as required by law and, following a hearing, appoint a suitable person to serve as Guardian of the Person (and Estate) of Proposed Ward with all of the duties and powers as set forth herein and for such further relief as the Court may deem appropriate.

Respectfully submitted,

                                                           

Applicant and Guardian Ad Litem

(Attorney Information)

STATE OF TEXAS                          §

COUNTY OF TARRANT                  §

 

                                              , Applicant and Guardian Ad Litem, first being duly sworn, upon his (her) oath, deposes and says:

 

“My name is                                         , and I am the Applicant and Court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem in the above styled and numbered cause. I have read and examined the foregoing Application for the Appointment of Guardian which is to be filed in this cause and all allegations contained therein are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”

                                                             

Applicant/Guardian Ad Litem

 

SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED BEFORE ME on                                                             .

                                                             

Notary

Certificate Of Service

I hereby certify that a true and correct copy of the foregoing instrument was served upon the following counsel by certified mail and/or by facsimile transmission on this ____________________.

(Remember that parents and spouses must be personally served or execute a waiver of service.)

Name                                                                CMRRR #

Address             (Repeat as Necessary)

 

                                                                                                _______________________________

[Attorney Name]


Appendix E:                                           Powers Requested by Proposed Guardian

(Illustrative)

PREFERRED Language: (We really mean this!!)

“The Guardian is hereby granted full authority over the Ward with all powers authorized by the Texas Probate Code and the rights of the Ward are limited to the extent not inconsistent therewith.  The rights of the Ward to obtain a driver’s license or operate a motor vehicle or to vote in a public election are also hereby removed.”

 

Other Specific Language:

(Guardian of the Person)

§     to review, take possession of and consent to the disclosure of medical or dental records

§     to apply for, arrange for and consent to psychological, psychiatric and medical examinations, testing and evaluations

§     to consent or object to medical and dental treatment, including surgery, but not to consent to  sterilization or abortion

§     to apply for, consent to and enroll in private and public residential care facilities, including 24-hour care facilities, and nursing homes

§     to apply for and secure an identification card, social security card, passport and other identification documents

§     to apply for, consent to and enroll in appropriate educational, vocational and recreational services

§     to apply for and receive funds from governmental sources, including Social Security Disability, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income benefits, HUD Section 8 rent subsidies and VA benefits

§     to apply for and consent to governmental services, including, vocational rehabilitation programs, Medicaid services, food stamps and Veteran’s benefits

 

(Guardian of the Estate)

§     to manage all real and personal property, including bank accounts and other deposit and investment accounts with Court permission, to take legal action necessary or appropriate to enforce and protect property rights; and to defend, pay, compromise, settle and adjust liability for debts and obligations owed; and to settle, compromise and release claims held or asserted

§     with Court permission, to sell, exchange and otherwise dispose of property

§     to manage, maintain, repair and insure any interest in real, personal and mixed property, tangible and intangible

§     to apply for Certificates of Title upon, endorse and transfer titles to motor vehicles; and to represent in such transfer assignments that the title to such motor vehicle is free and clear of all liens and encumbrances except those set forth in the transfer assignment

§     to obtain access to rented safety deposit boxes; and to remove the contents thereof; and surrender such safety deposit box with Court permission, to maintain or purchase insurance policies, including life, health and property insurance and Medicare, Social Security and other private and public welfare programs; and to take such action as may be appropriate to obtain possession and control of such policies; and to collect the proceeds thereof

§     to cause to be prepared, execute and file tax returns, claims for refunds and other documents which must or should be filed to pay taxes, penalties and interest shown to be due by such return; and to appear before any taxing authority and represent the Ward in any matter with the authority to execute a waiver of any type and consent to extensions; and compromise and settle all tax liabilities asserted; and make any return or report to any governmental agency or authority which may be required or which Ward may be entitled to make

§     to do such other and further acts concerning the Ward and the Ward’s properties, interests and estate as the Court may direct by express authorization through written court order.

 

Rights of Ward to be Limited

§     to hold or obtain a license to operate a motor vehicle    §     to vote in a public election

§     to make decisions involving marital status                   §     to make gifts of real and personal property

§     to exercise the powers and authority over Ward’s person and estate which are granted to Guardian


Appendix F: Application and Order for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem

No._____

 

Guardianship of                                                  §                      Probate Court

                                                           ,                                    §                      Number One

An Incapacitated Person                                                  §                      Tarrant County, Texas

 

APPLICATION FOR APPOINTMENT OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM

 

TO THE HONORABLE JUDGE OF SAID COURT:

 

__________________, Attorney Ad Litem for ______________ (“Movant”), files this Application for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem herein, and in support thereof would show this Court as follows:

 

1. Movant is the court-appointed Attorney Ad Litem for ____________, Proposed Ward herein.

2. Movant respectfully requests that the court appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the Proposed Ward pursuant to TEX. PROB. CODE §645 to represent and act in the best interests of the Proposed Ward in this matter.

3. Good cause exists for the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem.

 

WHEREFORE, Movant prays that the Court take up and act upon this Application, and for such other and further relief in law and in equity to which Movant may be entitled.

 

Dated: _______________________

Respectfully submitted,

 

[Attorney Information]

 

Attorney Ad Litem for

Proposed Ward

 

Certificate of Service

 

I hereby certify that a true and correct copy of the foregoing instrument was served upon the following counsel by certified mail and/or by facsimile transmission on this ____________________.

(Remember that parents and spouses must be personally served or execute a waiver of service.)

Name                                                                CMRRR #

Address             (Repeat as Necessary)

 

                                                                                    _______________________________

[Attorney Name]


No._____

 

Guardianship of                                                  §                      Probate Court

                                                           ,                                    §                      Number One

An Incapacitated Person                                                  §                      Tarrant County, Texas

 

ORDER APPOINTING GUARDIAN AD LITEM

PURSUANT TO § 645

OF THE TEXAS PROBATE CODE

 

On this day, the Court finds it necessary to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the proposed incapacitated person in this guardianship proceeding pursuant to § 645 of the Texas Probate Code in a manner that will enable the Court to determine what action will be in the best interests of the proposed incapacitated person.

 

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that ________________________, Ph # (817)_________________ , who is an Attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Texas, is appointed as Guardian Ad Litem of Proposed Ward to perform with due diligence the following duties:

a.    to personally interview the Proposed Ward;

b.   to investigate the need for the appointment of a Guardian of the Person and/or Estate for Proposed Ward and obtain a Proposed Guardian if necessary;

c.   to file a written report with the Court concerning the best interest of Proposed Ward as soon as possible but no later than one week prior to a hearing date (or within a reasonable time if no Application for the Appointment of a Guardian is filed);

d.   to file an Application for the Appointment of a Guardian of the Person and/or Estate of Proposed Ward if such is determined to be in the best interest of Proposed Ward;

e.    to obtain a hearing date and Letters of Guardianship in due course and as appropriate.

 

IT IS ORDERED that the Guardian Ad Litem is to be given access to all of the Proposed Ward’s financial, medical, psychological and intellectual testing records. This Order is issued pursuant to 45 CFR 164.512(e)(1)(i) Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which authorizes covered entities to disclose protected health information in the course of any judicial or administrative proceeding when responding to an order of the Court.

 

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a hearing pursuant to Texas Probate Code §685 is scheduled in the above entitled and numbered case on __________________, 200___ at __________o’clock ___.m.

 

SIGNED _________________________

 

 

_________________________________

JUDGE PRESIDING

 


Appendix G: Setting Confirmation Letter

 

                                                                     Heywood U. Buzzoff

Attorney at Law and Ad Litem Extraordinaire

1234 Main Street

Fort Worth, Texas 76102

 

January 19, 2000

 

 

Ms. Kelly Hand

Court Coordinator

Tarrant County Probate Court One

100 W. Weatherford, Rm 260A

Fort Worth, Texas 76196-0241

 

Re:       No. 06-1111-1

                        Guardianship of Natalie Attired

 

Dear Ms. Hand:

 

This letter will confirm that the above-referenced matter is set for hearing on the Application for Letters of Guardianship on Monday, April 1, 2007 at 3:00 p.m..

 

By copy of this letter, all parties and counsel of record are being notified of this hearing.

             

Please let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you for your assistance in this matter. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

                                                                                    Heywood U. Buzzoff

Guardian Ad Litem

cc:        Marge Inovera

            Hugh Louis Dewey, Esq.


Appendix H:                            Affidavit Regarding Notice Under §633(d-1)

NO. __________________

 

IN THE MATTER OF                                                    §                                  IN THE PROBATE COURT

THE GUARDIANSHIP OF                                              §

                                                §                                  NUMBER ONE

_________________________,                                       §

AN INCAPACITATED PERSON                         §                                  TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS

 

AFFIDAVIT REGARDING NOTICE UNDER SECTION 633(d-1)

 

            BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, personally appeared ______________________________, who, after being duly sworn, declared the following:

 

            “I am the Applicant in the above entitled and numbered cause.  I have personal knowledge of the material facts set forth in this affidavit, and they are true and correct.  I am filing this affidavit to comply with the requirements of Texas Probate Code Section 633 (d-1).”

 

            “I sent notice of this proceeding to the individuals/institutions listed below.  Attached to this affidavit is a copy of the notice sent and proof of delivery or attempted delivery of same.”

 

            LIST OF TO WHOM NOTICE SENT

 

           

 

“Further, Affiant sayeth not.”

 

                                                                                    _______________________________________

                                                                                    AFFIANT

 

SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME by ______________________ on ______________________, 200_.

 

 

                                                                                    __________________________________________

                                                                                    Notary


Appendix I:                                                           No._______

 

Guardianship of                                                           §                                  Probate Court

                                                                                    §

______________________,                                             §                                  Number One of

                                                                                    §

An Alleged Incapacitated Person                                  §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

Proof of Facts

(Guardianship)

 

On this day, the undersigned Affiant (“Affiant”), appeared personally in open court and, after being duly sworn, upon oath deposes and says that:

 

1.  “My name and residence address are:                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                        .

 

2.  “Proposed Ward,___________________________________________ is an incapacitated person as defined by §601(13) of the Texas Probate Code and is a(n):

a.      adult   minor             male   female           aged        years and.

b.      resident of this County; or        has an estate located principally in this county; or

 located in this county at the time of the filing of the Guardianship Application.  

c.      totally incapacitated; or             partially incapacitated as reflected in the Physician’s Certificate filed herein in accordance with §687 of the Texas Probate Code; or

 incapacitated by virtue of minority only.

 

3.  “Proposed Ward is: present in open court; or  not present in open court as it is not in Proposed Ward’s best interest to require attendance and Proposed Ward is not able to materially participate in the hearing if present.

 

4.  “Proposed Guardian,                                           , is a suitable person to be appointed Guardian, is not disqualified by law from serving in that capacity or from accepting Letters of Guardianship, is entitled to Letters of Guardianship, and it is in Proposed Ward’s best interest and is necessary to promote and protect Proposed Ward’s well-being for Proposed Guardian to be appointed to assist Proposed Ward in managing his/her estate.

 

5.  “There are no guardianships of any kind existing for Proposed Ward in this, or any other, state.

 

6.  (Minors only) “This guardianship is not sought for the primary purpose of enabling minor Proposed Ward to establish residency for enrollment in a school.

 

Signed                              .                                                                                                              

Affiant

 

SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me by Affiant on _____________________________.

 

 

______________________________


Appendix J:                                                        No.___________

Guardianship of                                                           §                                  Probate Court

______________________,                                             §                                  Number One of

An Alleged Incapacitated Person                                  §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

Order Appointing Guardian of the Person (and Estate)

On this day, came on to be heard the Application for Letters of Guardianship of the Person (and Estate) of                         , an Incapacitated Person (hereinafter referred to as “the Ward”) which ___________________, Guardian Ad Litem, caused to be filed pursuant to §683 of the Texas Probate Code; and the Court, having read the Application and the Physicians’ Certificate as required under §687 of the Texas Probate Code; and after hearing all evidence, testimony and arguments of witnesses and counsel in support of such Application; and being fully advised in the premises, no contest or opposition thereto being asserted, it appears to the Court and the Court hereby finds that:

 

  1 This Court has jurisdiction and venue of this cause;

  2. Due notice of said Application has been given to those persons as required by the Texas Probate Code;

  3. Citation has been personally served upon the Ward in accordance with the law;

  4. The Ward was/was not present in Court and/but was represented by his Attorney Ad Litem; The personal appearance of the Ward at the hearing was not necessary or advisable because the Ward’s incapacities are such that the Ward would not have been able to understand or participate in the hearing;

  5. Pursuant to §693(a) of the Texas Probate Code, the Ward is totally without capacity to care for himself or to manage his property; or Pursuant to §693(b) of the Texas Probate Code, the Ward lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, of the tasks necessary to care for himself or to manage his property; or The Ward is without capacity solely by virtue of his minority;

  6.                                        , (hereinafter referred to as “the Guardian”) is eligible to be appointed as Guardian and is entitled to be appointed Guardian of the Person and Estate of                  , the Ward.

  7. The guardianship is not created for the primary purpose of enabling the Ward to establish residency for enrollment in a school or school district for which the Ward is not otherwise eligible for enrollment.

 

Further, the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

  8. The Ward is an incapacitated person as defined by §601(13)(A or B) of the Texas Probate Code, who has no legal Guardian of his person and estate; The incapacity is evidenced by recurring acts or occurrences within the preceding six (6)-month period and not by isolated instances of negligence or bad judgment;

  9. It is in the best interest of the Ward to have the Court appoint a person as his Guardian;

10. The rights of the Ward and his property will be protected by the appointment of a Guardian.

 

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:

1.                       is hereby appointed Guardian of the Person (and Estate) of _______________, the Ward, and is hereby granted full authority over the Ward with all powers to act on the Ward’s behalf as authorized under the Texas Probate Code and to do such other and further acts concerning the Ward as the Court may, from time to time, direct by express authorization through written order of the Court and specifically including the ability to apply for a passport on behalf of the ward, and the rights of the Ward are limited to the extent not inconsistent herewith, including the right to hold or obtain a license to operate a motor vehicle and the right to vote in a public election.

2.   The Guardian appointed is hereby ordered to swear and subscribe to an oath that she will faithfully discharge the duties of Guardian of the Person and Estate of the Ward;

3.   The Guardian shall give good and adequate bond in the amount of $           , conditioned as required by law;

4.   Upon the filing of the Guardian’s Oath and approval of the Guardian’s Bond as required herein, the Clerk of the Court shall issue Letters of Guardianship to the Guardian;

5.   A petition for adjudication that a guardianship is no longer needed by the Ward may not be filed within a period of one (1) year from the date of the signing of this order without special leave of the Court.

 

SIGNED this                                        .

                                                           

Judge Presiding


Appendix K:                                                       No.___________

 

Guardianship of                                                           §                                  Probate Court

                                                                                    §

______________________,                                             §                                  Number One of

                                                                                    §

An Alleged Incapacitated Person                                  §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

Personal Surety Bond

 

THE STATE OF TEXAS            §

§          KNOW ALL PERSONS BY THESE PRESENTS

COUNTY OF TARRANT            §

 

That we, _______________________________ as Principal, and ______________________________________

and ___________________________________, as Sureties, are held and firmly bound, jointly and severally, unto the Judge of the Probate Court Number One of Tarrant County, Texas, and to the successors in office of such Judge, in the amount of $100.00 (One Hundred Dollars) conditioned that the above-bound Principal, who has been duly appointed by such Judge as Guardian of the Person of __________________________________________, an Incapacitated Person, shall well and truly perform all duties required by law under the appointment.

 

_______________________________________

Principal

 

____________________________________________    _______________________________________

Surety                                                                           Surety

____________________________________________    _______________________________________

____________________________________________    _______________________________________

Address                                                                         Address

 

SIGNED AND APPROVED this _________________________________.

 

 

_______________________________________

Judge Presiding


Appendix L:                                                       No.___________

 

Guardianship of                                                           §                                  Probate Court

                                                                                    §

______________________,                                             §                                  Number One of

                                                                                    §

An Alleged Incapacitated Person                                  §                                  Tarrant County, Texas

 

                                                                       Oath of Guardian

 

That I, ______________________, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully perform and discharge the duties of Guardian of the Person of__________________________, an Incapacitated Person,  according to law.

 

 

                                                             

Guardian

 

SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN TO BEFORE ME on ___________________________________.

 

 

 

                                                           


Appendix M:                                                      No. 00-1809-1

 

The Guardianship of                                                     }                       Probate Court Number One

                                                                                    }

___________________________                         }                       of

                                                                                    }

An Incapacitated Person                                               }                       Tarrant County, Texas

 

Safekeeping (“Freeze”) Agreement

 

TO THE HONORABLE JUDGE OF SAID COURT:

 

      NOW COMES _______________(BANK) by and through an officer of such institution, whose signature is duly affixed below, and does hereby certify that _______________, Guardian of the above-captioned Estate, has deposited with such institution in ________ Account No. ________, funds belonging to said Estate with a balance as of this date of $_______.

 

      Further, BANK certifies that it will not deliver to the said Guardian or any other person, any of said funds so deposited, including any subsequent deposits to the account or any interest or dividends credited to such account, except upon the written authority of the Judge of Probate Court Number One of Tarrant County, Texas, in accordance with §703 of the Texas Probate Code, as amended.

 

      Witness the signature and seal of ___________ (Bank), this _________ day of __________, 20___.

 

                                                                                    ________________________ BANK

                                                                                    By_____________________________

                                                                                    Its _________________________

 

 

      APPROVED this ______ day of ____________________, 20___.

 

 

______________________________

JUDGE PRESIDING


Appendix N:                                          Cause No. / No. de Causa___________

 

COURT INSTRUCTIONS: GUARDIAN OF THE PERSON

INSTRUCCIONES DE LA CORTE PARA EL GUARDIAN DE LA PERSONA

 

As a duly-appointed Guardian of the Person, you are hereby advised by the Court that you must do the following: (All section references are to the Texas Probate Code unless otherwise indicated.)

 

Como El Guardián designado con la responsabilidad de la Heredad, La Corte se le notifica que usted debe hacer lo siguiente: (Todas las referencias a las secciones son del Código Testamentario de Texas [Texas Probate Code] a menos que hay otras indicaciones al contrario.)

 

Steve M. King, Judge/ Juez

Probate Court #1

Tarrant County, Texas

 

Corte Testamentaria  #1

Condado de Tarrant, Texas

 

            I acknowledge receipt of a copy of these instructions.

            Yo, guardián del sujeto de esta custodia, afirmo que he leído y entiendo lo anterior y he recibido una copia de estas instrucciones.

Name/Nombre: __________________________

                        Guardian/ Guardián       Date/ Fecha

            _________________________________

            Name Printed/ Nombre en letra de molde

 


A. Qualify as Guardian: Within twenty (20) days of receiving the order appointing you as guardian (§699):

1. Take and file an oath (§700);

2. File the required bond, (§702), and

3. Obtain Letters of Guardianship from the probate clerk’s office (§659).

 

B. Specified Powers of Guardian of the Person (§767)

1. The right to have physical possession of the ward and to establish the ward's legal domicile;

2. The power to consent to medical, psychiatric, and surgical treatment other than the in-patient psychiatric commitment of the ward, but including the right to make end-of-life decisions regarding the withdrawing of life support, hydration and nutrition (§166.039 Texas Health & Safety Code)

 

 

A. Para Calificar Como Guardián: Dentro de (20) días de recibir la orden que le designa como  guardián usted debe (§699):

1. Juramentarse y registrar el juramento (§700);

2. Registrar la fianza designada (§702), y

3. Obtener Las Cartas de Custodia de la oficina (§659).

B. Los Poderes Especificados del Guardián de la Persona (§767)

1. El derecho de tener posesión física del sujeto de la custodia y establecer el domicilio legal del sujeto de la custodia;

2. El poder de aprobar el tratamiento medico, psiquiátrico y quirúrgico.  Este poder incluye el derecho de de tomar decisiones del fin de vida que se tratan de quitar aparatos que prolongan la vida, la hidratación y la nutrición; pero no incluye el poder  de ingresar el sujeto de la custodia a tratamiento psiquiátrico.(§166.039 Texas Health & Safety Code)


      3. Any other powers specified granted in the order appointing the guardian.

 

C. Specified Duties of Guardian of the Person (§767)

1.  The duty of care, control, and protection of the ward;

2.  The duty to provide the ward with clothing, food, medical care, and shelter; and

 

3.  The duty to file an annual report setting forth specific information regarding the condition of the ward from a medical and social standpoint.  It should be filed within 30 days after receipt.(§743)

 

WARNING: Letters of Guardianship EXPIRE one year and four months after the date of issuance unless renewed. (§659(b)) The clerk cannot renew the letters until the guardian has filed the required annual report for the guardian of the person (§743).

 

 

 

4.  The duty to advise the court immediately of any address changes of the guardian or the ward.  Failure to do so is cause for removal of the guardian and cancellation of all Letters of Guardianship; (§761)

 

 

5.  Notify the Court immediately if the ward dies or, in the case of a minor, when the ward turns 18;

 

 

6.  Notify the Court immediately if you or any other person or entity has been appointed the conservator of the ward or if adoption has occurred;

 

7.  A Court Visitor will be assigned annually to assess the condition of the ward. Please cooperate with this person. (§648).

 

 

 

      3. Cualquier otro poder especificado en la orden designando el guardián.

 

C. Los Poderes Especificados del Guardián de la Persona (§767)

1.  La obligación del cuido, control y la protección del sujeto de la custodia;

2.  La obligación de proveer la ropa, la comida, el cuido medico y el albergue al sujeto de la custodia; y

3.  La obligación de registrar un reportaje anual estipulando información especifica de la condición del sujeto de la custodia del punto de vista médica y social.  Se debe registrar el reportaje dentro de 30 días después de recibirlo. (§743)

 

AVISO: Las Cartas de la Custodia SE VENCEN un año y cuatro meses después de la fecha de emisión a menos que las cartas estén renovadas.  (§659(b)) La secretaria del juzgado no puede renovar las cartas hasta que el guardián registre los reportes anuales necesarios para el guardián de la persona. (§743).

 

4.  La obligación de informar al juzgado inmediatamente de cualquier cambio de dirección del guardián o del sujeto de la custodia.  La falta de actuar así es razón para quitar el guardián y cancelar todas Las Cartas de La Custodia; (§761)

 

5.  Notificar al juzgado inmediatamente cuando se muera el sujeto de la custodia o, en el caso un menor de edad cuando el sujeto de la custodia cumpla 18 años.;

 

6.  Notificar al juzgado inmediatamente si usted o cualquier otra persona ha sido designado el guardián del sujeto de la custodia o si el sujeto ha sido adoptado.

 

7. Un visitante del juzgado será designado anualmente para determinar la condición del sujeto de la custodia.  Favor de cooperar con esta persona. (§648).


D. Expectations of the Guardian of the Person: (§743)

1.  See that the ward is appropriately housed,

2.  Have frequent and meaningful personal visits with the Ward.

3.  Make every effort to insure the Ward is receiving all available benefits for which he/she may be eligible and entitled.

4.  Obtain psychological, social services, training, educational, social and vocational opportunities for the Ward as needed and appropriate.

5.  Authorize and arrange any needed medical, dental, ophthalmological and surgical treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. Expectativas del Guardián de la Persona: (§743)

1.  Asegurar que el sujeto de la custodia tiene alojamiento apropiado.

2.  Tener visitas personales con el sujeto de la custodia que son frecuentes y significantes.

3.  Hacer todo lo posible para asegurar que el sujeto de la custodia recibe todos los beneficios que tiene el derecho de recibir.

4.  Obtener oportunidades para el sujeto de la custodia cuando es necesario y apropiado de: la  psicología, servicios sociales, la capacitación; obtener atención psicológica, servicios sociales, entrenamiento educacional y oportunidades sociales y vocacionales.

5.  Autorizar y planificar cualquier necesidad medica, dental, oftalmologica y tratamiento quirurgico.


Appendix O:                             Cause No. / No. de Causa __________________

 

COURT INSTRUCTIONS: GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE

INSTRUCCIONES DE LA CORTE PARA EL GUARDIAN DE LA HEREDAD

 

As a duly-appointed Guardian of the Estate, you are hereby advised by the Court that you must do the following: (All section references are to the Texas Probate Code unless otherwise indicated.)

 

Como El Guardián designado con la responsabilidad de la Heredad, La Corte se le notifica que usted debe hacer lo siguiente: (Todas las referencias a las secciones son del Código Testamentario de Texas [Texas Probate Code] a menos que hay otras indicaciones al contrario.)

 

Steve M. King, Judge / Juez

Probate Court #1

Tarrant County, Texas

 

Corte Testamentaria  #1

Condado de Tarrant, Texas

 

I acknowledge receipt of a copy of these instructions.

 

Yo, guardián del sujeto de esta custodia, afirmo que he leído y entiendo lo anterior y he recibido una copia de estas instrucciones.

Name: _________________________________

            Guardian/ Guardián                   Date/Fecha

 

            _________________________________

            Name Printed/ Nombre en letra de molde


 

 

A. Fiduciary Responsibility: (§§771ff)  As a guardian, you are a fiduciary, a position of the highest trust and responsibility with respect to the ward, keeping all affairs confidential; maintaining accurate and complete financial records and ensuring that all dealings undertaken on behalf of the ward, such as the purchase of goods and services, are properly completed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A. Responsabilidad Fiduciaria: (§§771ff)  Como guardián usted esta en una posición fiduciaria.  Es una posición que lleva un alto grado de confianza y responsabilidad al sujeto de la custodia.  Los deberes del guardián incluyen: mantener todos los asuntos confidenciales; mantener los archivos financieros en una forma completa y precisa; asegurar que todos los tratos hechos por parte del sujeto de la custodia como la compra de bienes y servicios, se completan en una forma apropiada. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Avoid conflicts of interest (and potential removal and personal liability) by: 1) not commingling your personal funds with the funds of the ward; 2) not borrowing money from or lending money to the ward; 3) not selling or encumbering real or personal property, or any interest therein, to yourself, a relative, friend or business acquaintance.

As a fiduciary, you and your bond surety may be held liable for any breach of your fiduciary duties.  The requirements of the Probate Code are clear regarding your responsibilities.

 

 

B. Qualify as Guardian: Within twenty (20) days of receiving the order appointing you as guardian (§699):

1. Take and file an oath (§700);

2. File the required bond, (§702), and

3. Obtain Letters of Guardianship from the probate clerk’s office (§659).

 

 

C. Limited Power of Guardian to Act Without Court Authority (§774(b)) Without prior authorization by the court, the guardian may only: 1. Purchase liability and property insurance; 2.Pay taxes, court costs, & bond premiums; 3.Release liens upon final payment; 4.Vote stocks; 5.Pay calls and assessments; (§774(b)).  Any other actions by the guardian must be with prior approval of the court or be ratified by the court.  You and your bond surety can be held liable for failure to get court approval before taking action or spending estate money.  If in doubt, ask your attorney.

 

 

D. Take Possession of all Property of the Ward Immediately upon receiving Letters of Guardian-ship, collect and take possession of all personal property and business records of the estate. (§771)  This may include, as necessary:

1. Security Change the locks on real property;

 

2. Storage Place non-perishable personal property in insured storage;

 

Para evitar conflictos de interés (y deposición y riesgo personal potencial): 1) no se mezcla sus fondos personales con los fondos del sujeto de la custodia; 2) no pide prestado ni prestar dinero a el sujeto de la custodia; 3) no vende ni endeuda bienes o propiedad personal o cualquier interés similar a usted mismo, un pariente, un amigo o un conocido de negocios.

Con el poder fiduciario usted y su fianza pueden ser responsables por cualquier violación de sus deberes fiduciarios.  Los requisitos del Código Testamentario son claros en cuanto a sus responsabilidades.

 

B. Calificarse como Guardián: Dentro de veinte (20) días de recibir la orden que le designa a usted como guardián usted debe (§699):

1. Juramentarse y archivar el juramento (§700);

2. Archivar la fianza designada, (§702), y

3. Obtener Cartas de Custodia de la oficina de la secretaria del juzgado (§659).

 

C. El Poder del Guardián Limitado para Actuar sin Autoridad de la Corte (§774(b)) Sin autorización previo de la corte el guardián solo puede: 1. Comprar seguro de riesgo y de propiedad; 2.Pagar impuestos, costos de corte y primas de fianza; 3.Liberar deudas al hacer el pago; 4.Votar acciones; 5.Visitar y opinar sobre el sujeto de la custodia; (§774(b)).  Cualquier otra acción del guardián debe ser con la autorización previa de la corte o ser ratificado por la corte.  Usted y su fianza pueden ser responsables por la falta de conseguir aprobación de la corte antes de actuar o gastar el dinero de la heredad.  Si usted tiene dudas pregúntale a su abogado.

 

D. Poseer Toda La Propiedad del sujeto de la custodia inmediatamente después de recibir Cartas de la Custodia, reunir y poseer toda la propiedad personal y documentos de negocio de la heredad. (§771)  Este puede incluir cuando sea necesario:

1. Seguridad Cambie las cerraduras en los bienes;

2. Almacenaje Ponga propiedad personal no corruptible en almacenaje asegurado;


3.  Perishable Property Obtain permission to sell perishable personal property (§812) after the Inventory has been filed and approved;

 

4. Accounts and Investments Set up appropriate accounts for the Guardianship funds. (All Guardianship funds must be deposited in insured accounts in the name of the Guardianship.  Retain in a checking account only such funds reasonably necessary for the current support and maintenance of the Ward.  You are required to invest all additional funds in insured, interest-bearing accounts. (Do not commingle Social Security Benefits with other estate accounts and non-probate assets. you need only to account to the Social Security Administration for the use of these funds);

5. Cancel Credit Cards issued in the Ward’s name and send written notice to credit reporting agencies that the Ward has been declared incapacitated and will not be making any loans or accepting “pre-approved” credit cards.

 

 

E. Manage the Property of the Ward as a "prudent person would manage one’s own property." (§768)

 

1. Spending Money - Obtain a written order of this Court authorizing any expenditure of Guardianship funds before any such expenditure is made.  Get an order for a monthly allowance for the maintenance and support of the Ward. (§693(b)(3))

2. Expenditures for Support - A parent of a minor ward has a legal duty to support the child from his own resources.  Absent a showing that the parent is unable to support the child, the parent has no authority as guardian to invade either the income or corpus of the child's estate. TEX. PROB. CODE §777

 

 

3. Sales and Leases - Obtain a written order of this Court before attempting to sell, lease, transfer or otherwise dispose of any non-cash asset of the Guardianship;

 

 

3. Propiedad Corruptible Obtenga permiso para vender propiedad personal corruptible (§812) después de que el inventario ha sido archivado y aprobado;

4. Cuentas e Inversiones Establezca cuentas apropiadas para los fondos de la Custodia. (Todos los fondos de la Custodia deben ser depositados in cuentas aseguradas con el nombre de la Custodia.  Retenga en una cuenta de cheques solamente los fondos necesarios para el apoyo y mantenimiento actual del sujeto de la custodia.  Debe invertir todos los fondos adicionales en cuentas aseguradas que ganan interés. (No se mezcla los beneficios de Seguridad Social con otras cuentas de la heredad y posesiones no testamentarias. Su responsabilidad es a la Administración de Seguro Social para el uso de estos fondos);

5. Cancela Tarjetas de Crédito distribuidas con el nombre del sujeto de la custodia.  Envié notificación escrita a las agencias de reportaje de crédito que ha sido declarado que el sujeto de la custodia esta incapacitado y no pedirá prestamos ni aceptara tarjetas de crédito “pre-aprobadas.”

 

E. Administra la Propiedad  del sujeto de la custodia en la misma manera que “una persona prudente administraría su propia propiedad.” (§768)

1. Desembolsar Dinero – Obtenga una orden escrita de esta Corte autorizando cualquier desembolso de fondos de la Custodia antes de realizar tal desembolso.  Obtenga una orden para la concesión mensual para el mantenimiento y apoyo del sujeto de la Custodia. (§693(b)(3))

2. Desembolsos de Apoyo – Un padre de un sujeto de la custodia menor de edad tiene el deber legal para apoyar el menor de los recursos del padre.  El padre no tiene la autoridad como guardián para invadir a los ingresos  o el valor principal de la heredad del menor a menos que el padre muestra que no es capaz de apoyar al menor. TEX. PROB. CODE §777

3. Venta y Contratos de Arrendamiento – Obtenga una orden escrita de esta Corte antes de intentar vender, arrendar, transferir o disponer de cualquier posesión no al contado de la Custodia.;


4. Insurance - Obtain adequate health for the ward, if possible; obtain adequate property insurance on all non-cash assets and, when funds are available, make appropriate funeral and burial arrangements.

 

5.  Collect all debts, rentals, or claims due to the ward, and, if necessary, with court permission, litigate on behalf of the ward;

 

6. Creditor’s Claims must be very carefully handled. Consult your attorney.  Your improper approval of a claim or your failure to timely act on a claim can result in your personal liability.

 

7. Loans Under certain circumstances, the court may authorize a guardian to mortgage or pledge estate property as security on a loan: (§781) or sale of estate property (§811)

 

8. Gifts The guardian has no authority to make a gift, absent specific authorization

 

F. Filing an Inventory  Within 30 days after qualification, the guardian must file a sworn inventory, appraisement and list of claims due the estate of the ward.  (§729)

 

 

G. Notice to Creditors  Within one month after qualification, the guardian (through an attorney) must publish a notice to creditors in a newspaper of general circulation in the county and file a copy of the notice and the publisher's affidavit. (§783)   Within four months after qualification, the guardian must give notice by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to all secured creditors (§784) and any general claimants if the guardian has actual knowledge of the debt or claim.

 

H. Accountings

1. Maintain an accurate record of all expenditures and receipts of Guardianship funds;

 

 

 

 

4. Seguro – Obtenga seguro de salud adecuado para el sujeto de la custodia cuando posible; obtenga seguro de propiedad adecuado en todas las posesiones no al contado y realiza planes apropiados para el funeral y entierro cuando los fondos estén disponibles.

5.  Cobra todas las deudas, alquileres, o peticiones que se debe pagar al sujeto de la custodia y cuando es necesario litiga por parte del sujeto de la custodia con permiso de la corte.;

6. Peticiones de Acreedores se debe manejar con mucho cuidado. Consulte a su abogado.  Su aprobación no apropiada de la petición o su falta de actuar a tiempo con una petición puede resultar en su responsabilidad personal.

7. Prestamos En ciertas circunstancias la corte puede autorizar una guardián para hipotecar o comprometer propiedad de la heredad como fianza de una persona: (§781) o venta de la propiedad de la heredad (§811)

8. Donaciones El guardián no tiene la autoridad para hacer una donación sin autorización específica.

F. Registrar un Inventario  Dentro de  30 días de calificar, el guardián debe registrar un inventario, valoración y una lista de las peticiones que se deben entregar a la heredad del

sujeto de la custodia bajo juramento.  (§729)

 

G. Notificación a Acreedores  Dentro de un mes de calificar el guardián (a través de un abogado) debe publicar una notificación a los acreedores en un periódico de circulación general en el condado y registrar una copia de la notificación y la declaración del editor. (§783)   Dentro de cuatro meses después de calificar el guardián debe dar una notificación por correo certificado o registrado y pedir el regreso del recibo de todos los acreedores asegurados (§784) y cualquier otra persona con quien el sujeto de la custodia tiene una deuda y tiene conocimiento actual de la deuda. 

H. Contabilidad

1. Mantenga un archivo preciso de todos los desembolsos y recibos de los fondos de la Custodia;


2. Within 60 days of the anniversary of your qualification, file your Annual Account in the form prescribed by the Court.

 

WARNING:  Your Letters of Guardianship will EXPIRE one year and four months after the date of issuance unless they are renewed.  The Probate Clerk cannot renew the letters until you have filed the required annual account for the guardian of the estate (§741).

 

 

 

3. File your Final Account when the Guardianship is ready to be closed due to the death of the Ward, the Ward regaining capacity or (if Guardian of a Minor) the Ward reaches 18 years of age;

 

I. Address Changes - Notify the Court at once if your address or the address of the Ward changes. Failure to do so is a cause for your removal. (§759)

 

 

J. Attorney’s Fees - Attorney’s fees and expenses may be paid upon application and order, as any other expenditure, subject to the guidelines of the court for billing procedures

 

 

K. Questions? Consult with your attorney (not the Court) on any matter regarding this Guardianship that you do not understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Dentro de 60 días del aniversario de su calificación registre su Contabilidad Anual en la forma designada por la Corte. 

 

AVISO: Sus Cartas de Custodia SE VENCERAN en un año y cuatro meses después de la fecha de emisión a menos que sean renovadas.  La Secretaria de la Corte Testamentaria no puede renovar las cartas hasta que usted ha registrado la contabilidad anual designada para el guardián de la heredad (§741).

 

3. Registre su Contabilidad Final cuando La Custodia este lista para cerrar debido a la muerte del sujecto de la custodia, cuando el sujeto de la custodia recobra la capacidad o (si El Guardián de un Menor) el sujeto de la custodia cumpla 18 años;

 

I. Cambios de Dirección – Notifique a la Corte inmediatamente si su dirección o la dirección del sujeto de la custodia cambien.  La falta de notificar es causa para su disposición. (§759)

 

J. Gastos para el Abogado – Los gastos y desembolsos para el abogado se deben pagar a solicitud y orden como cualquier otro desembolso, según las reglas de la corte por procedimientos de facturación.

 

K. Preguntas? Consulta su abogado (no con la Corte) por cualquier asunto de esta Custodia que usted no entiende.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Appendix P:

To be filed by the Guardian of the Person within thirty days of appointment.

(English/Spanish Forms are available from the Court upon request)

                                                            No.___________________

IN RE: GUARDIANSHIP OF                                     §                      IN THE PROBATE COURT

                                                                                    §

____________________________________            §                      NUMBER ONE FOR

                                                                                    §

AN INCAPACITATED PERSON                              §                      TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS

 

Initial Report of Guardian of the Person

 

Under penalty of perjury, I provide the following information to the best of my knowledge:

 

1. WARD:       ________________________________________________________________________

                                    (Last)                                       (First)               (Middle)                       (Maiden)

      SSN:          ____________________________    Date of Birth: ________________       Age ________

      Address:     ________________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                                     (City)               (State)              (Zip Code)

      Home Ph    (_____) _____________________     Work Ph          (_____) _______________________

 

2.GUARDIAN: ______________________________________________________________________

                                    (Last)                                       (First)               (Middle)                       (Maiden)

      Date of Birth:          _______________________  Place of Birth:   _____________________________

      Social Security No. ______________________    Drivers’ Lic-State _______  # _________________

      Relationship to Ward:   ______________________________________________________________

      Home Address:  ___________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                         (City)               (State)                          (Zip Code)

      Employer:   __________________________        Occupation:      _____________________________

      Bus. Address:         _________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                         (City)               (State)                          (Zip Code)

      Home Ph    (_____) _____________________     Work Ph          (_____) _______________________

 

3. GUARDIAN’S SPOUSE:  ___________________________________________________________

                                                (Last)                           (First)               (Middle)                       (Maiden)

      Date of Birth:          _______________________  Place of Birth:   _____________________________

      Social Security No. ______________________    Drivers’ Lic-State _______  # _________________

      Relationship to Ward:   ______________________________________________________________

      Home Address:  ___________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                         (City)               (State)                          (Zip Code)

      Home Ph    (_____) _____________________     Work Ph          (_____) _______________________

 

4. RELATIVES WHO WILL ALWAYS KNOW HOW TO CONTACT GUARDIAN:

      Name:        _____________________________ Phone:  (_____)_____________________________

      Address:     _______________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                         (City)               (State)                          (Zip Code)

      Name:        _____________________________ Phone:  (_____)_____________________________

      Address:     _______________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                         (City)               (State)                          (Zip Code)

YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY INFORM THE COURT OF ANY CHANGE IN YOUR ADDRESS OR THE WARD’S.

PROVIDE INFORMATION BELOW IF IT IS APPLICABLE TO YOUR WARD’S CIRCUMSTANCE.

 

  3. I have possession and control of the Ward's estate.                                                 YES o NO o

      (If "YES") I was appointed Guardian of the Estate.                                                  YES o NO o

      (If "NO", mark below as applicable to Ward's estate)

      Parent (Natural Guardian)                                                                                       YES o NO o

      Managing Conservator (a copy of Court Order is attached)                                     YES o NO o

      The Ward is a beneficiary of a §867 Guardianship Management Trust                                  YES o NO o

      (If ‘YES,’ give details under #11, below.)

 

  4. MHMR CASE MANAGER:  Name: __________________________________________________

      Phone:        _____________________________ Pager:   (_____)_____________________________

      Address:     _______________________________________________________________________

                                    (Street)                                     (City)               (State)              (Zip Code)

 

  5. LIVING CONDITIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES:       The Ward resides in:

      o the Ward's home            o the guardian's home  o A relative's home (explain below)

      o assisted living                 o a nursing home                     o a hospital/medical facility

      o foster/boarding/group home                                            o other  _____________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      Manager Name: ___________________________________       Phone: ________________________

      Other comments: ___________________________________________________________________

 

  6. PRINCIPAL NATURE OF INCAPACITY / REASON FOR GUARDIANSHIP: _________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

 

  7. Ward’s MEDICAL HISTORY and CURRENT TREATMENT INFORMATION

      A. medical problems/conditions:      ______________________________________________________

            ______________________________________________________________________________

      B. Prognosis for the Ward:                                                  GOOD o STABLE o POOR o

      C. Ward’s medical team: (Medical providers seen regularly)

            Specialty                                  Doctor’s name                          Phone

            Primary Care                ____________________________________________________________

            ________________    ____________________________________________________________

            ________________    ____________________________________________________________

            ________________    ____________________________________________________________

      Give a brief medical history of the Ward, including any recent hospitalizations and injuries:

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

 

  8. PHYSICAL CONDITION of the Ward:

      A. Generally describe the Ward’s physical condition: ______________________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      B. On-going medical services the Ward receives (such as home health care, etc) _________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      C. Does the Ward have unmet physical needs? (dentures, hearing aid, glasses, surgery, therapy)

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      D. Guardian’s Plan for meeting Ward’s unmet physical needs: _______________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

  9. FINANCIAL CONDITION OF THE WARD: Indicate any Government/Social Programs in which the Ward participates, including funds payable to the Ward or to others for the benefit of the Ward

Source                                     Received Per Month                                               Value

o Social Security _________________________________________________            _____________

      Representative Payee ________________________

o Veterans Administration__________________________________________ _____________

      Representative Payee ________________________

o SSI Disability__________________________________________________ _____________

      Representative Payee ________________________

o Government Pension (Specify)______________________________________            _____________

o Rail road Retirement______________________________________________           _____________

o Military Retirement_______________________________________________           _____________

      o Trust Income (Specify)____________________________________________           _____________

o Other (Specify) __________________________________________________         _____________

 

      A.  The Ward "works".                                                                                                       o YES o NO

      If "YES", give name of employer or workshop and describe employment. ______________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

      B.   The Ward is able to participate in planned activities such as outings.                   o YES o NO

      If "YES", describe: _________________________________________________________________

      C.  Transportation to activities is being provided for the Ward.                                            o YES o NO

      D.  The Ward goes to a senior citizen facility or adult care facility.                            o YES o NO

      E.   Ward’s unmet social needs: _______________________________________________________

      F.   Guardian’s Plan for meeting Ward’s unmet social needs: ________________________________

      _________________________________________________________________________________

 

10.The INTELLECTUAL/EDUCATIONAL CONDITION of the Ward is as follows:

      A.  The Ward responds to his/her name