Guarding the Guardians
(New Ohio Supreme Court Rules)
In order to promote uniformity of guardianship administration throughout the state and increase each county court’s vigilance in protecting Wards from abuse, the Ohio Supreme Court has issued several new rules regarding guardianship administration which will go into effect on June 1, 2015. These new standards will apply to all guardians of minor children and incompetent adults regardless of whether the guardian is a family member, volunteer or paid professional.
Presently, each of Ohio’s 88 county probate courts creates it’s owns rules regarding guardianship administration. The result is a patchwork of protections with varying levels of oversight by the courts. Incidents of extreme financial abuse and neglect by guardians have drawn media attention to the need for changes. The new, Supreme Court Rules of Superintendence require all counties to meet the following minimum standards:
- A criminal background check will be required of all guardianship applicants other than attorneys in good standing.
- Individuals who are paid to provide direct services to the ward such as in- home caregivers and nursing homes will not be permitted to serve as guardian.
- Each guardian will be required to complete 6 hours of court sanctioned education in the first year and 3 hours of education in subsequent years. These courses will include information about establishing and managing guardianship, record keeping, reporting and improving the ward’s quality of life.
- Guardians with 10 or more wards will have special reporting requirements.
- Guardians will be required to meet personally with the ward at least once prior to appointment and at least quarterly thereafter.
- Guardians will be required to file an annual plan with goals for the wards care.
- Guardians will require the court’s approval before filing suit on behalf of the ward.
- Guardians will be required to file a list of the ward’s important legal papers with the court.
- Guardians will be required to report address changes, changes in the ward’s medical or financial condition and any allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the ward.
The committee that drafted these new rules began work in 2007 when national news of guardians’ abuses and lack of court oversight caused a public outcry. Some critics feel that Ohio’s new rules are not as rigorous as other states and don’t go far enough to protect vulnerable wards. But many probate judges are concerned that the costs and added duties will reduce the number of people willing to serve as guardians for an ever increasing population of vulnerable individuals.
Acting as guardian for a loved one can be stressful, confusing and emotionally taxing. An Elder Law Attorney familiar with guardianship law and knowledge of the many resources available can assist guardians in meeting the court’s requirements and providing good care for the ward.