What is a guardian of the estate?
A guardian of the estate is someone the court names to manage money and property for Martin, who the court has found cannot manage it alone.
Sometimes a guardian of the estate is also appointed as guardian of the person. A guardian of the person makes Martin’s healthcare and other personal decisions. Sometimes a different person is appointed to be the guardian of the person, or Martin himself may still be able to make these personal decisions.
This Guide covers only duties of the guardian of the estate. Terms can differ. In other states, a guardian of the estate may be called a guardian of property or conservator. Martin’s money and property is called his estate. In Texas, a person under guardianship may be called an incapacitated person or ward, but in other states the person may be called a protected person.
What are my responsibilities as a guardian of the estate?
As guardian of the estate, you have a double duty—both to Martin (the person you are serving) and to the court.
DUTY TO MARTIN
You must always keep Martin’s best interests in mind. In managing his money, you must act for his good and not for your own good. Involve Martin in decisions as much as possible.
DUTY TO THE COURT
You are an agent of the court. The court has placed its trust in you. You must report to the court regularly, be ready to answer any questions, and carry out the tasks and duties specified in the guardianship order.
Can Martin still manage his money and property after the court appoints me as guardian of the estate?
No, you must manage Martin’s money and property for him. But you should always take into account his wishes and his best interests in doing so.
Am I personally liable for Martin’s debts?
No, you are not personally liable for Martin’s debts or for decisions you make on his behalf unless you act beyond your authority or fail to be diligent and careful in making decisions.
When do my responsibilities end?
Your responsibilities as Martin’s guardian of the estate last until the court relieves you of your duties. The court may do this because someone else has been appointed guardian of the estate, because Martin has died, or because Martin no longer needs a guardian.
Do I have to serve as Martin’s guardian of the estate?
Yes, once appointed, you have to serve as Martin’s guardian of the estate until the court relieves you of your duties. If you do not want to or cannot serve as guardian of the estate any longer, you can ask the court to allow you to resign and to appoint someone else. If you do so, you must also file a final account showing the financial condition of Martin’s estate.
Can I manage Martin’s digital assets?
A digital asset is an electronic record in which Martin has a right or interest. Martin’s email, social media, and online bank accounts are common examples of digital assets. The person or business that carries, maintains, processes, receives, or stores Martin’s digital assets is called a custodian.
If Martin named you as a designated recipient of his digital assets with the custodian, then you should be able to manage those assets. The guardianship order or other order issued by the court might also authorize you to access Martin’s digital assets.
When you contact a custodian in order to manage Martin’s digital assets held by that custodian, have the following documents ready, in case the custodian wants to review those documents:
- a written request regarding the management of Martin’s digital assets;
- a certified copy of the order that grants you authority over Martin’s digital assets; and
- a unique identifier (e.g., Martin’s username) for Martin’s digital assets held by the custodian and/or evidence linking Martin to those digital assets.
You always should remember that you owe Martin fiduciary duties, including a duty to keep Martin’s information confidential, when managing his digital assets. Texas law prohibits you from managing Martin’s digital assets by impersonating Martin.
Code of Ethics and Minimum Standards for Guardianship Services
These standards from the Texas Supreme Court offer helpful information for all guardians to review to make sure you are acting in Martin’s best interests. You can see the Code of Ethics at txcourts.gov/media/1401036/Code-of-Ethics-and-Order-GC-Final-2016.pdf.
Don’t expect others to know what a guardian of the estate is or does.
Others may not understand that you have been appointed by the court. They may think you have more authority or less authority than you really have. You may need to educate them. You could show them this Guide and a copy of the guardianship order.
It can be difficult to remember new terms. If you need a refresher on what those terms mean, go to Let's Review Some Vocabulary.