What are legal guardian responsibilities?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What are legal guardian responsibilities? My mother is 77 years old, failing mentally, and difficult to deal with as are my three siblings. I was appointed (through my mom and an attorney) to be her conservator/guardian some years ago after my mom was duped by a con artist to protect her finances. My siblings want little to do with our mother, other than have her money, so they say I am responsible for taking care of her since I have been appointed as her guardian. I share power of attorney with my oldest brother. My question is what are the duties of a legal guardian?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

 There’s something confused and confusing about the terms you’re using—and while words can sometimes just be words, they most often have loaded meanings in the legal world.


For example, securing a legal guardianship or conservatorship would have required a fairly involved court procedure in which a court would have to hear evidence about why it was necessary, whether it was in your mother’s best interests and whether and why you were a good person for the job.


Your mom and an attorney could not have accomplished this on their own; the judge in a probate court would have to sign off on it—and when that happened, you would be given a sheaf of legal papers that fairly specifically spell out your duties. Some guardians, for example, are empowered only to handle finances for another person; some are given responsibility for their personal care.


If you have the legal documents, check them closely; they should spell out your duties. If you were not issued the papers specifically naming you as a guardian or conservator, you may not be one; check with the local probate court to be sure.

If the whole situation still seems confused and confusing on your end, check with the attorney who was involved in the procedure; he or she should be able to explain who is now legally responsible for what.