Clients often ask me whether more than one person can be guardian for an individual. The answer is yes – so long as the co-guardians are able to work together to do their work. It is imperative that the co-guardians be able to communicate with one another and have a good working relationship. It’s also important to remember that each guardian must submit an annual personal well being report (some counties allow one report to be submitted, as long as it is signed by each co-guardian).
In very rare instances, courts have allowed 3 individuals to be co-guardians. This will usually occur when mom and dad want to be guardians for their developmentally disabled adult child, but they also want to add one of the adult child’s siblings as a co-guardian, so that there is a smooth transition when mom and/or dad pass away.
Clients often ask me if it’s feasible for two people to be guardian for a loved one. My answer, “It’s feasible. Whether it’s a good idea or not depends on your situation.”
What does it depend on?
- Whether the two proposed guardians can work together. To be co-guardians you have to be able to communicate with one another AND be able to work together to arrive at decisions that are in the best interest of the person under guardianship.
- The availability of both proposed guardians. Many times clients will tell me that they want to add a sibling or an adult child who is swamped with life right now and has no time to be guardian now, but they want the person on “just in case” the primary guardian dies. In this situation, I recommend to the clients that the person with limited time not be guardian now. If you are co-guardians now, you are both equally responsible for acting on the person under guardianship’s behalf. You can’t just rely on a “primary” guardian and be on stand-by if something happens to that person.
- Whether each proposed guardian can pass the background check. Minnesota law requires guardians to pass a background check initially, and then again every two years.
If it makes sense for your particular situation, given the foregoing, you certainly could consider asking the court to appoint co-guardians.
Can more than one person be guardian or conservator of an individual?
Yes. In Minnesota there is no limit on the number of people who can be guardian or conservator for an individual.
Why would co-guardians be necessary? In the case of a mentally disabled child, both parents will oftentimes want to be guardian. Sometimes an older parent will want to be guardian along with an older sibling of the ward, so that if the parent passes away a guardian will already be in place. Sometimes two siblings will want to be guardians for their elderly parent.
However, before the court appoints co-guardians or co-conservators, due consideration should be given to the particular situation and, importantly, the dynamic and relationship between the proposed co-guardians. It is imperative that they be able to communicate with each other and work well together, since they will need to jointly arrive a mutual decision on every aspect of the ward’s care. They should be prepared to demonstrate to the court how they will work together and how they propose resolving any differences of opinion that may arise.
Although it is possible to have more than 2 guardians or conservators, it is rare. The more guardians a person has, the greater the possibility that differences of opinion will arise.
If the court does appoint more than one guardian or conservator, it is important to remember that each guardian and conservator is individually accountable to the court for every decision that was made on the ward’s behalf. It won’t be acceptable to point to a co-guardian and say “she did it, not me”. So carefully consider your ability to work with a proposed co-guardian before agreeing to serve with someone else.