Probate, Guardianships, and Wills in Providence, Rhode Island


The Basics of Guardianships


The Basics of Wills



A guardian is a person or entity that is either chosen or appointed by a court to care for another individual who is either temporarily or permanently disabled or a minor child with no surviving parents. So what are the duties and responsibilities of the guardian and what can be done if those duties are not met?

Each state has its own set of laws with regard to guardianships and should be consulted before any legal action is undertaken. In simple terms, a guardian is appointed to handle the affairs of the "ward" during the time that he or she is unable to do so. These tasks may include ensuring that proper medical care is provided to the ward, that proper nutrition and other necessities are provided, and that educational guidelines are followed (as in the case of minor children). A guardian may also be responsible to maintain the ward's bank accounts and other financial affairs and make purchases necessary for the well being of the ward.

In most situations, the court that oversees the guardianship will require regular reports regarding the ward's status and may be required to offer plans for future actions. The court may, in certain instances, issue instructions to the guardian, or issue its own guidelines for the relationship. Again, guardianship requirements vary by state.

A guardianship may be terminated if the court deems that the need for the relationship has ended. For example, if a person was undergoing alcohol or drug treatment and successfully completed the program, the court may find that the need for a guardian is no longer warranted. So, too, when a child in a court-supervised guardianship reaches the age of majority, the court will likely terminate that supervision.

As with all estate related issues, it is advisable to seek the services of the attorney, who specializes in this area of practice.


How Are They Used?

Certain situations may make an individual unable to care for him- or herself for any number of reasons. Physical incapacity, illness, mental health issues, and other circumstances may warrant an individual to require the services of a guardian. A minor child with no surviving parents is also likely to require the designation of a guardian.

Guardians are often appointed by a court but can also be designated through voluntary action or spelled out in such legal documents as a will. However, the voluntary desgination of a guardian must have occurred before the onset of cases of mental illness or psychological incapacity.

The underlying concept in the establishment of guardianship statutes is to allow the person being served by the guardian (the ward) to receive necessary services and care while also being able to maintain an appropriate level of independence. Of course, each individual case is different, and the duties and level of stewardship provided by the guardian is governed by the level of need.

Each state has its own set of statutes regarding legal guardianship, including who may be appointed to serve in this position. For example, certain states require that in the cases of minor children, the court must designate the person selected by the ward unless it can establish that the individual selected does not represent the best interest of the child.

Certain court-appointed guardianships are intended to be temporary in nature. For example, a person may designate a guardian to serve in that role while undergoing certain medical treatments or while suffering from a treatable illness. So, too, the guardianship of a minor child will expire when that child reaches the designated age of majority in that jurisdiction.

As our population ages, more and more families are seeing the need for guardianship designation and the legal benefits it affords. However, this is a complicated and ever-changing area of the law, and consultation with the attorney, who has an expertise in this practice area, is always advisable.



Probate Court Litigation

We represent clients in will contests, administration of estates, administration of guardianships, contested guardianships and any appeals from Probate Court to Superior Court.


The Basics of Wills:

Why Do I Need a Will?

A will is one of the legal documents that more people are likely to execute than any other kind. Many are fairly simple, yet others can be terribly complex. A will is intended to provide direction for how your estate (property, assets, cash, etc.) is distributed to the surving beneficiaries. These beneficiaries can be family members friends, business associates, and in some more bizarre cases, family pets.

If one has not executed a valid will prior to death, he or she is determined to have died "intestate," meaning that no instructions have been given for the distributing of the proceeds from that estate. The result is that the Probate Court is left to decide how the estate is to be distributed, which may be in sharp contrast to the intentions or desires of the deceased.

Each state's legislature has mapped guideliines that the Probate Court must follow in disposing of an estate where no will exists. So, obviously, these guidelines vary by state. Generally speaking, a surviving spouse and children are first in line to inherit the assets of an individual who dies intestate. If no spouse or children exist, the waters then become murky. Counsins, sunts, uncles, parents, even grandparents, may be drawn into the picture.

The other main consequence of not having a will is the potential cost to your estate while the probate issues are being settled. Court costs and legal fees will likely take a bite out of assets that would be better served being passed on to worthy heirs.

While a will can be a fairly simple document to prepare, it is always advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning law. The existence of an improperly prepared or executed will has the same consequences as having no will at all.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only.
It should not be construed as legal advice and readers are encouraged to consult with the attorney regarding these matters.