Arkansas Guardian Bond: A Comprehensive Guide
At a Glance:
- Average Cost: Calculated based on a tiered structure
- Bond Amount: Determined on a case-by-case basis (more on this later)
- Who Needs It: Most guardians appointed as a fiduciary over a ward’s person and/or estate in Arkansas
- Purpose: To ensure that wards receive compensation for financial harm if the guardian fails to fulfill their fiduciary duties
- Who Regulates Guardian Bonds in Arkansas: The circuit court of the county where the ward is domiciled or resides
Arkansas Code 28-65 et seq requires all persons seeking guardianship over a ward to be appointed as a fiduciary by the circuit court of the county where the ward is domiciled or resides. The Arkansas legislature enacted the appointment requirement to ensure that guardians act in the ward’s best interests when making decisions related to their health or managing their estate. To provide financial security for the enforcement of this requirement, guardians may need to purchase and maintain a probate surety bond before becoming appointed as a fiduciary.
What is the Purpose of the Arkansas Guardian Bond?
Arkansas requires most guardians to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to being appointed as a fiduciary over a ward’s person and/or estate. The bond ensures that wards will receive compensation for financial harm if the guardian fails to abide by the regulations outlined in Arkansas Code 28-65-215 and 28-48-201. Specifically, the bond protects the ward if the guardian fails to adhere to all court orders or mismanages the estate’s assets. In short, the bond is a type of insurance that protects the ward if the guardian does not properly fulfill their fiduciary duties.
How Can an Insurance Agent Obtain an Arkansas Guardian Bond?
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How is the Bond Amount Determined?
Arkansas Code 28-65-215 dictates that if the guardianship is over the ward’s person only, then the bond amount may not exceed $1,000. For guardianships over a ward’s estate or property, the bond amount must be equal to the value of the ward’s property that is under the guardian’s control and may be reduced by the value of any real property within the ward’s estate. Furthermore, if a person nominates a guardian in their will and chooses to waive the bond requirement, the bond amount may be reduced by the value of any property given to the ward by the deceased individual.
What are the Underwriting Requirements for the Arkansas Guardian Bond?
Most surety companies will examine the following factors when determining eligibility for the Arkansas Guardian bond:
- Guardian’s credit history
- Whether or not the estate has an attorney
- Whether or not the guardian is a family member
- The guardian’s occupation
- Whether or not the guardian is replacing a prior fiduciary
- If the guardian has ever committed a felony
- Whether or not there is any ongoing business in the estate
- If a creditor is requiring the bond
- If the bond amount is greater than or equal to the estate’s value
How Much Does the Arkansas Guardian Bond Cost?
Surety companies typically determine the premium rate for guardian bonds based on a tiered structure. As a result, larger bond amounts will be charged a lower premium rate than smaller bonds.
The following table illustrates the pricing structure for the Arkansas Guardian bond:
$1,500,000 Guardian Bond Cost
|Bond Amount||Premium Rate||Total Bond Cost|
|Total cost of $4,715|
Who is Required to Purchase the Bond?
Arkansas requires most guardians to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to becoming a court-appointed fiduciary. To paraphrase Arkansas Code 28-65-101, a guardian is a person who is appointed by the circuit court to have the care and custody over the health and wellbeing of a ward and/or their estate. Additionally, a “ward” is defined as either a minor or incapacitated person for whom a guardian has been appointed that is incapable of making sound decisions concerning their health, safety, and/or estate.
Guardians are exempt from purchasing a bond in the following situations:
- If the estate is all cash and the guardian deposits the cash into an insured bank account
- If the court determines that a bond is not necessary
How do Arkansas Guardians Become Appointed as Fiduciaries?
Guardians in Arkansas must navigate several steps to become appointed as fiduciaries. Below are the general guidelines, but appointees should refer to the appointment statutes for details on the process.
Step 1 – Meet the Qualifications
Persons are ineligible for appointment as a guardian if they are:
- Not a resident of Arkansas
- Under the age of 18
- Of unsound mind
- A convicted or pardoned felon
- Found to be unsuitable by the court
Step 2 – Determine Priority
Priority to serve as a guardian is granted in the following order:
- The parents or legal guardian of the word of their nominee by will
- A person nominated by the ward if the ward is at least 14 years old
- A person nominated by the spouse of an incapacitated person
- Any blood relative or spouse of the ward
Step 3 – Hire an Attorney
Although not explicitly required, it is highly recommended that guardians hire an attorney to assist with the guardianship process.
Step 4 – File a Petition
Persons seeking guardianship over a ward must file a petition for appointment with the circuit court of the county where the ward is domiciled or resides. Guardians can obtain the petition online here or from the circuit court, and must ensure to include the following information:
- Personal information of the ward
- General statement and evaluation of the ward’s property
- The reason for the petition for appointment
Step 5 – The Ward Gets a Professional Evaluation
Within six months of a petition for appointment being filed, the ward must be evaluated by a professional with expertise in the person’s alleged incapacity. The evaluation will be included as evidence in the hearing to determine if guardianship is necessary, and minors are not required to be evaluated.
Step 6 – Attend a Hearing
Guardians must attend a hearing conducted by the circuit court of the county where the ward is domiciled or resides. During the hearing, guardians will present evidence as to why the person is in need of guardianship. The court will examine the evidence presented by the guardian as well as that presented by the person being evaluated and make a determination as to whether or not guardianship is necessary.
Any interested person can apply to the court to participate in the hearing. Before appointing a guardian, the court must determine that:
- The ward is either a minor or otherwise incapacitated
- A guardianship is necessary to protect the interests of the ward
- The person seeking appointment as a guardian is qualified
Step 7 – Purchase a Surety Bond
Unless otherwise exempt, guardians with care and custody over a ward’s person and/or estate must purchase and maintain a surety bond (limits outlined above).
How do Arkansas Guardians File Their Bonds?
Guardians should submit their completed bond forms, including the power of attorney, to the circuit court of the county where the ward resides.
The surety bond requires signatures from both the surety company that issues the bond and the applicant. The surety company should include the following information on the bond form:
- Legal name of the entity/individual(s) buying the bond
- Surety company’s name and state of incorporation
- Date the guardian is appointed
- Bond amount
- Date the bond is signed
What can Arkansas Guardians do to Avoid Claims Made Against Their Bonds?
To avoid claims against their bonds, guardians in Arkansas must ensure that they:
- Perform all of their fiduciary duties
- Obey all court orders
- Do not engage in any acts of fraud
- Do not mismanage the ward’s assets