I represent a lot of people who are put under guardianship and one of the things that I always talk about with them is that a guardianship does NOT always last forever. This is particularly true in the case of young adults, who are put under guardianship when they turn 18 because of disabilities like ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Anxiety Disorder.* With any individual, but particularly with “children” when they turn 18, they simply need more time, more transitional schooling, more life experience, before they are able to function in society without a guardian.
How is a guardianship ended in Minnesota? By convincing the Court that a person is no longer in need of the assistance or protection of a guardian. The court will have a hearing to determine whether a guardianship should be terminated. At the hearing, evidence is presented to show that the individual is now able to make and communicate his/her own responsible decisions regarding medical care, shelter, nutrition, clothing and safety. Although statute doesn’t technically require it, it is usually very helpful to have a Physician’s Statement that there is no longer a continuing need for a guardian. Once a prima facie case is established that a guardian is no longer needed, if no one comes forward objecting to the termination and showing that in fact guardianship is still needed, then the Court must terminate the guardianship. The statute that governs termination of guardianships is Minn. Stat. 524.5-317. During this process the Ward (person under guardianship) is entitled to have an attorney represent him/her.
* (This list is meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive).
What do you do when the Ward (the person for whom you are serving as Guardian) dies? Do you need to notify the Court? Do you need to file any papers with the Court?
YES – you need to notify the Court and file papers. Minnesota Statute 524.5-317 addresses termination of a guardianship due to the ward’s death. The document that you file, in Minnesota Guardianships, is a Petition For Termination of Guardianship and Discharge of Guardian. A copy of the death certificate must accompany the Petition (Note: Since it has a social security number on it, you must file it as confidential). You should also submit a proposed Order Terminating Guardianship and Discharging Guardian. If everything is in order, the Court typically signs the Order without requiring Notice and a hearing.
What happens when a ward dies? Is the guardianship proceeding automatically over? Does the guardian need to do anything else?
(a) A guardianship terminates upon the death of the ward or upon order of the court.
(b) On petition of any person interested in the ward’s welfare the court may terminate a guardianship if the ward no longer needs the assistance or protection of a guardian. The court may modify the type of appointment or powers granted to the guardian if the extent of protection or assistance previously granted is currently excessive or insufficient or the ward’s capacity to provide for support, care, education, health, and welfare has so changed as to warrant that action. The court may make any other order that is in the best interests of the ward or may grant other appropriate relief.
(c) Except as otherwise ordered by the court for good cause, the court, before terminating a guardianship, shall follow the same procedures to safeguard the rights of the ward as apply to a petition for guardianship. Upon presentation by the petitioner of evidence establishing a prima facie case for termination, the court shall order the termination and discharge the guardian unless it is proven that continuation of the guardianship is in the best interest of the ward.
Therefore, when the ward dies, if there is only a guardianship, the guardianship automatically terminates. However, it is obviously necessary to inform the Court of the same, so that the Court can document and close its file. Accordingly, the guardian should file a sworn/notarized Affidavit with the Court, stating that the ward has died, what date the ward died on, (perhaps) attaching a copy of the death certificate, and asking the court to issue any order the Court believes is necessary/appropriate (though technically, upon death of the ward, no order is necessary; if for some reason there was a bond in place – though it would be unusual in a guardianship – the Court should order the bond to be discharged) and asking the Court to close its file.