Georgia 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
- Who Needs It: Certain guardians appointed as fiduciaries in Georgia
- Purpose: To ensure that the ward receives compensation for financial harm if the guardian fails to fulfill their fiduciary duties
- Who Regulates Guardian Bonds in Georgia: The probate court with jurisdiction over where the ward resides or has property
Georgia Code 29-4-1 requires all guardians to be appointed by a court and swear an oath before assuming their fiduciary duties. The Georgia legislature enacted the appointment requirement to ensure that guardians properly advocate for a ward’s best interests when making decisions related to their health or managing their property. To provide financial security for the enforcement of this requirement, certain guardians must purchase and maintain a probate surety bond before becoming appointed as a fiduciary.
What is the Purpose of the Georgia Guardian Bond?
Georgia requires certain guardians to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to being appointed as a fiduciary over a ward’s health and safety. The bond ensures that the ward will receive compensation for financial harm if the guardian fails to abide by the regulations outlined in Georgia Code 29-4-30 and 29-2-25. Specifically, the bond protects the ward if the guardian fails to adhere to all court orders or mismanages the estate’s assets.
For example, if a guardian uses money from a ward’s bank account to pay for the guardian’s personal expenses or mixes the ward’s funds with their own, the ward can file a claim against the guardian’s bond to recoup their losses. In short, the bond is a type of insurance in favor of the ward if the guardian does not fulfill their fiduciary duties.
How Can an Insurance Agent Obtain a Georgia Guardian Bond?
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What are the Underwriting Requirements for the Georgia Guardian Bond?
Most surety companies will examine the following factors when determining eligibility for the Georgia 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 Georgia Guardian Bond Cost?
Surety companies typically determine the premium rate for Guardian bonds based on a tiered structure, so larger bond amounts will be charged a lower premium rate than smaller bonds. Georgia Code 29-4-30 and 29-2-25 allows for the ward’s estate to pay for the cost of the bond.
The following table illustrates the pricing structure for the Georgia 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?
Georgia requires certain guardians to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to becoming a court-appointed fiduciary. To paraphrase Georgia Code 29-1-1, a “guardian” is an individual appointed as a fiduciary who is responsible for providing care and protection to a ward. Likewise, a “ward” is defined as a minor or adult for whom a guardian has been appointed that is incapable of making sound decisions concerning their health and safety.
How do Georgia Guardians Become Appointed as Fiduciaries?
Guardians in Georgia must navigate several steps to become appointed as fiduciaries. Below are the general guidelines for guardians of adults only, as each guardianship case for minors comes with its own unique appointment process and must be addressed individually. Appointees should refer to the appointment statutes or the state’s guardian handbook for details on the process.
Step 1 – Hire an Attorney
Although not explicitly required, it is highly recommended that guardians hire an attorney to assist with the appointment process.
Step 2 – Determine Priority
Priority to serve as a guardian is granted in the following order:
- An individual nominated by the ward
- The spouse of the ward or their nominee
- The adult child of the ward or their nominee
- A parent of the ward or their nominee
- A guardian appointed for the ward when they were a minor
- A guardian previously appointed in Georgia or another state
- A friend, relative, or any other person
- The county guardian
The court desires to appoint the guardian best suited for the ward and may choose to appoint a person without priority.
Step 3 – File a Petition for Appointment
Persons seeking guardianship over an adult must file a petition for appointment with the probate court with jurisdiction over where the adult resides or has property. Guardians can obtain the forms from the probate court handling the case. Guardians must also ensure they have the petition sworn by either two or more petitioners, or have the petition supported by an affidavit from a physician, psychologist, or licensed social worker. A person is disqualified from being appointed as a guardian if they:
- Are a minor, a ward, or a protected person
- Have a conflict of interest with the ward unless the court determines it is unsubstantial
- Are an owner, operator, or employee of a long-term care facility where the ward is receiving care.
Step 4 – Attend a Hearing
Guardians must attend a hearing conducted by the probate court and present evidence as to why the adult is in need of guardianship. The court will examine the evidence presented by the guardian as well as that presented by the adult being evaluated (if any) and make a determination as to whether or not guardianship is necessary.
If the court finds a basis for the appointment, it will issue a letter of guardianship to the petitioner. The guardian must also take an oath with the judge or clerk of the probate court prior to beginning their fiduciary duties.
Step 5 – Purchase a Surety Bond
The court, in its sole discretion, may require guardians of a ward to purchase and maintain a surety bond.
How do Georgia Guardians File Their Bonds?
Guardians should file their completed bond forms, including the power of attorney, with the clerk of the probate court with jurisdiction over where the ward resides or has property.
The surety bond requires signatures from the company that issues the bond, the applicant, and the judge presiding over the case. 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 address
- Legal name of the ward
- County of the probate court and case number
- Bond amount
- Fiduciary title
- Date the bond is signed
What can Georgia Guardians do to Avoid Claims Made Against Their Bonds?
To avoid claims against their bonds, guardians in Georgia must ensure that they:
- Perform all of their fiduciary duties
- Obey all court orders
- Do not mismanage the ward’s property