Duty 4: Keep good records and report to the court

You must keep true and complete records of Martin’s money and property.

Each year you will have to show the court everything you’ve done with Martin’s money and property, and a lawsuit might also force you to do so. Always be ready to share your records with family—unless you think they will misuse the information to harm Martin.

Practice good recordkeeping habits:

  • Keep a detailed list of everything that you receive or spend for Martin. Records should include the amount of checks written or deposited, dates, reasons, names of people or companies involved, and other important information.
  • Keep receipts and notes, even for small expenses. For example, write “$50, groceries, ABC Grocery Store, May 2” in your records soon after you spend the money.
  • Avoid paying in cash. Try not to pay Martin’s expenses with cash. Also, try not to use an ATM card to withdraw cash or write checks to “Cash.” If you need to use cash, be sure to keep receipts or notes.
  • Getting paid? If you are permitted by the court to charge a fee to serve as guardian of the estate, be sure the fee you charge is reasonable. Keep detailed records as you go along of what work you did, how much time it took, when you did it, and why you did it.
  • File your annual accounts with the court. Each year, with the help of your attorney, you must report to the court within 60 days of the anniversary of your official qualification date to give an accounting of all the money you received and spent.
    • The court may give you a specific form or checklist for the annual account or will tell you what is required. Use the records you have kept during the year to fill in the form. If you have questions, ask court staff or a lawyer for help.
    • Be sure to turn it in on time. If you fail to file an annual account, the court may call you in to explain why, may assess fees against you individually and against your bond, and may remove you as guardian.
    • Your annual account must be clear and must “add up.” The annual account should show a beginning balance, income during the year, expenses during the year, and an ending balance. The ending balance for one year should be the same as the beginning balance for the next year.
    • Annual account requirements might differ by court and may change over time. Try to understand in advance what is needed, so that your annual account is not rejected for a minor problem. Ask for an example of a correct annual account. You may need an accountant to help.
  • File a final accounting after Martin dies. Notify the court when Martin dies. You may also be required to notify certain family members and tell them about the funeral arrangements. According to court procedures, make a final accounting of Martin’s money and property and file it with the court. Once the court approves the final settlement and once you have delivered any remaining property to the person entitled to it, the court will discharge you and close the estate.
    • You may need to pay final bills or make final arrangements, especially if no one else can do it. For example, you may need to pay funeral expenses and final medical bills.
    • If Martin did not already make funeral or burial arrangements, look for any directions he may have left—perhaps in advance directives or remarks to family or friends.
    • An executor named in a will, an administrator named by the court, or a trustee named in a trust will handle Martin’s money and property after you turn them over. Hold Martin’s personal things safely until they are transferred to whoever is to receive them. If you are the one named to handle Martin’s money and property after his death, make sure you understand when your duties as guardian end and your new duties begin.