Under certain circumstances, probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of temporary and permanent guardians for minors. A permanent guardian may be appointed for a minor who has no living parents or, after notice to the parents without objection, when the parents fail to properly care for the minor. Permanent guardianship of a minor, though similar, is not the same as legal custody of a minor, which may be granted only by superior or juvenile courts in Georgia.
Temporary guardianship may be granted to a person having physical custody of a minor in need of a guardian. The consent of the natural guardian(s) must be given in writing or the natural guardian(s) must be given legal notice of the proceeding. The probate court may not grant temporary guardianship of a minor over the objection of a natural guardian. The natural guardian(s) of a minor is/are the parents, if living, or the parent(s) having legal custody of the minor if the parents are divorced or were never married. The granting of temporary guardianship of a minor does not permanently terminate the parental rights of the parents. Temporary guardians hold, during the term of the temporary guardianship, all of the powers of a natural guardian, which will include the authority to consent to medical treatment and to enroll the child in school. Temporary guardians may be required to file reports on the personal status and conditions of the minor.
Adult Guardianship and Conservatorships
Probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of guardians and conservators of adult persons found to be incapacitated by reason of physical or mental illness to such an extent that the adult is no longer capable of making reasonable and rational decisions concerning his or her person or of managing his or her money and property. Guardians made decisions concerning the person of the Ward, and Conservators manage and make decisions concerning the income and property of the Ward. Conservators must be bonded for the value of all income and personal property of the Ward, and Guardians may be required to post bond. Guardians an incapacitated adult must file annual reports on the physical/mental status of the ward. Conservators must file an inventory of assets, an asset management plan and annual financial accountings, all of which are subject to review or audit by the staff of the probate court. The appointment, supervision, removal and discharge of guardians, conservators and their sureties are within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the probate courts.
Probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of Conservators for minors. A Conservator may be required if a minor inherits money or personal property not in a trust or under the management of a testamentary conservator, when a minor has received an award of damages in a personal injury lawsuit, or when a minor is the named beneficiary of life insurance or retirement benefits. Conservators must be bonded for the value of all income and personal property of the Minor. Conservators must file an inventory of assets, an asset management plan and annual financial accountings, all of which are subject to review or audit by the staff of the probate court. The appointment, supervision, removal and discharge of conservators for minors and their sureties are within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the probate courts.
Cost and Investigations
There are court costs and fees which must be paid in connection with any guardianship and/or conservatorship case. Attorneys’ fees will also be involved in many cases. Particularly for adults, consideration should first be given to Alternatives to Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship. Most probate courts will require that all conservators and some guardians, particularly guardians of minors, undergo a criminal background check before appointment. Services caseworkers, social work professionals, and skilled and personal care facility administrators and staff.
Training and Educational Materials
Most probate courts will require all guardians and conservators of adults and all conservators of minors to view a training video and to read a handbook prepared and published for the courts by the Council of Probate Court Judges and the Administrative Office of the Courts. Even if not required, the videos and handbooks are excellent training and educational tools for guardians and conservators. There a links to those resources in the right column of this page.