Proceedings for the appointment of a guardian of the person and/or conservatorship of property of a minor child or an incapacitated adult are among the most important and difficult cases tried in Probate Court. These cases are handled by the Probate Court of Athens-Clarke County with utmost attention to the degree of importance given them under law. Counsel involved in guardianship matters in this court will be expected by the court to handle the matter accordingly. This means they are expected to prepare, to comport with these rules, and to be familiar with the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct particularly pertaining to this area of practice.
Lawyers are specifically directed to Rule 1.4 Communication, Rule 1.2 (d) Scope of Representation, and Rule 1.14 Client Under A Disability, which also contains provisions for lawyers representing the guardian, as distinct from the ward, and lawyers representing clients who are or may become the subject of involuntary treatment proceedings.
Duties & Powers of Guardians
The Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia has produced two videos concerning the duties and powers of guardians, one applicable to adult guardianships and one applicable to conservators of the property of minors. Except when specifically waived by the court, prior to the issuance of letters of guardianship of the person or conservatorship of the property of an incapacitated adult or for the property of a minor child, every guardian appointed by the court will be required to view the appropriate video. The court has facilities for the viewing of the videos. Copies of the videos may be checked out for viewing outside this office by the payment of a refundable $10 deposit.
Nominations of Guardians
Prior to hearing or trial, each attorney filing a petition for the appointment of a guardian of the person or conservatorship of the property of an incapacitated adult or of the property of a minor child is expected by the court to advise the nominated or proposed guardian(s) that the law imposes limitations on the authority of guardians and requires certain reports to be filed with the court. Attorneys who are not familiar with the limitations on authority or the reporting requirements should obtain and read the Handbook for Guardians.
Advising the Nominated or Proposed Conservators
The attorney should also advise the nominated or proposed conservator(s) of property that a surety bond will be required in an amount to be set by the court, which will be approximately and at least equal to the sum of the total value of the ward's personal property and the ward's annual income. To the extent practicable, arrangements for the required bond should be made prior to the hearing or trial. Although the exact amount will not be known until the hearing or trial, the income and assets of the ward, exclusive of the value of real estate, should be susceptible to reasonable estimation. The attorney should not propose for appointment as conservator a person who cannot qualify for a bond. Bond will usually be required to be posted within 10 days of the hearing.
Guardians appointed by this court will be strictly monitored in accordance with Georgia law and are required to use the reporting forms provided by this court. Guardians of the property are expected by the court to maintain full, accurate, and complete records, to maintain all bank statements and canceled checks, and to retain all invoices, vouchers, bills, statements, and other documents in support of all transactions at least until the return for which those records apply has been accepted, approved, and recorded by the court. It is recommended that all such records be maintained for a period not less than three years.