Choosing to act as an incapable person’s attorney or guardian of property is a considerable and important responsibility. Part of that responsibility is keeping a clear record of all money coming into and leaving the incapable person’s hands. Pursuant to section 32(6) of the Substitute Decisions Act, attorneys and guardians of property are required to keep accounts of all transactions involving the property of the incapable person.
It is important for guardians to maintain accurate, thorough accounts for several important reasons. First and foremost, keeping proper accounts is a part of a guardian’s fiduciary duty to the incapable person and the legislation requires that you do so. Second, keeping thorough accounts can protect you from personal liability if you are required to pass your accounts. Third, the guardian’s compensation is tied directly to the incapable person’s receipts and disbursements.
Below are some helpful tips for guardians and attorneys keeping accounts:
1. If possible, speak with the grantor of the Power of Attorney prior to that person becoming incapable. Discuss their wishes, assets, and where they are keeping their will. Continue these conversations after you begin acting as an attorney or guardian and encourage your loved one to participate, to the best of his or her abilities, in your decisions about their property.
2. Review the Power of Attorney document. Often the Power of Attorney will stipulate whether there are any limitations on how you can manage the incapable person’s property.
3. If you are a guardian for property, you must follow the court-approved Management and Guardianship Plans. If any material change is required to your Management Plan, you should prepare an amended Management Plan and submit it to the Public Guardian and Trustee for approval.
4. Locate and review the incapable person’s Will. If property is specifically gifted in a will, it cannot be sold unless it is necessary to care for the incapable person.
5. When you are named guardian or begin acting as an attorney, make a list of all the incapable person’s assets (whether solely or jointly owned). Assets include real estate, money, securities, investments, motor vehicles, other personal property, etc.
6. Keep a record of all transactions you make on the incapable person’s behalf. It is important that you keep a copy of all receipts and bank statements. These can be maintained in a binder, or scanned into an electronic folder regularly. If maintaining these digitally, ensure that your files are backed up.
7. Keep the incapable person’s financial accounts and transactions completely separate from your own.
8. Consult regularly with the incapable person’s supportive family members and friends about decisions that you make with respect to the incapable person’s property.
9. Most importantly, the incapable person’s comfort and well-being should guide each decision that you make with respect to their property. You are required to exercise your fiduciary duties diligently, with honesty and integrity, and in good faith for the incapable person’s benefit.
10. You have a right to seek advice and direction from the court to deal with questions about your obligations, and the incapable person’s legal rights. This is not meant to displace your duty to make tough decisions as a substitute decision maker, but to provide you with judicial guidance in complex situations.