What is Probate Guardianship in California?

Two children playing with a guitar, content because of probate guardianship that has ensured they are safe, healthy, and happy.

Life is a road with unforeseeable twists, turns, obstacles, and detours that children are ill-equipped to navigate. However, certain situations can sometimes leave them without support before they can responsibly manage their lives and well-being alone. Whether their parents pass away prematurely or they inherit a significant sum of money, probate guardianship is an essential legal process that provides this support. Here is our guide to the guardianship of children in California:

What is Probate Guardianship?

Probate guardianship refers to a court process that helps protect and take care of children. A guardianship of a child in California affords someone other than the child’s parent custody of the child, authority over their property, or both. 

A guardianship is, in some ways, similar to a conservatorship. A defining difference, however, is that a conservatorship is for people over the age of 18, while guardianship is for those under 18. 

When the courts appoint someone as a guardian, their parents can no longer make decisions for them, and guardians assume crucial duties and obligations, as well as a responsibility to the courts, for decisions relating to the child, including but not limited to: 

  • Residence
  • Medical treatment
  • Community resources
  • Financial support
  • Visitation
  • And much more

Courts can only grant this guardianship if the child is not involved in a Family Court or Juvenile Court action.

Related Article: What is a Conservatorship and How Does it Work?

What Are the Two Kinds of Probate Guardianship?

When it comes to the guardianship of children in California, there are two types available. One addresses custody of the child, and the other addresses their property. Courts can appoint one party for both or two separate parties.

Guardianship of the Person

Courts establish guardianship of the person when a child is living with an adult who is not their parent but needs legal authority to make  decisions for the child.

Essentially, under this kind of probate guardianship, the guardian receives full legal and physical custody of the child. As a guardian, they have significant responsibilities for providing the child’s care, including providing or nurturing:

  • Food, clothing, and shelter
  • Physical, mental, and emotional growth and health
  • Safety and protection
  • Education
  • Medical and dental care
  • Any additional needs they might have

Guardianship of the Estate

Another option afforded under the probate guardianship process is guardianship of the estate, which oversees a child’s income and property.

Under this kind of guardianship for a child in California, a guardian receives authority over all the child’s income and property until they turn 18. One common situation that makes this necessary for a child is when they inherit significant money or assets. 

Typically, the courts will appoint the surviving parent to be the guardian of their estate. These guardians manage the estate and assume responsibility for:

  • Marking prudent investments on the child’s behalf
  • Creating a blocked account
  • Placing estate funds in interest-bearing accounts
  • Conducting an inventory of estate property
  • Ensuring there is sufficient insurance coverage for assets
  • And much more

One of the most important aspects of this guardianship is keeping records and conducting an accounting according to state and local regulations that complies with a format outlined in the Probate Code. 

This accounting can be incredibly complicated, and mistakes can have severe consequences on both the guardian and child, so working with a specialized CPA is imperative. 

Related Article: Helping Minors as Guardians of their Estates

Get Expert Accounting for Your Probate Guardianship Duties

If you have received probate guardianship over a child, this is a significant honor with considerable responsibility. Whether the guardianship is over their person, estate, or both, you have an enormous duty to their present and future well-being. Still, accounting and filing records with the courts is a financially complex process that requires working with an expert CPA to avoid mistakes and preserve the child’s quality of life, now and in the future.

Fortunately, at Marcia L. Campbell, we provide specialty CPA services for those entrusted with the guardianship of children in California. Contact us to get started and learn more.

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