Bonding and Becoming Guardian: What You Need For It to Be Official

Georgia Estate planning attorney Mark Biernath and Cobb County probate Judge Kelli Wolk detail important information about conservator bonds and the necessary letters to be the authorized guardian.

Mr. Biernath: Conservators must post bond and I know we’ve covered some of this already. That bond is basically an insurance policy you buy against your self so that if you screw up, the judge can tell the bonding company and the bonding company will say “Ok, the conservator screwed up. You have to pay this money to me (the court) and the bonding company will come after you to collect what they had to pay”. [The bond company pays the court for the lost money and then goes after the conservator to recover the money] If you cannot be bonded do not ask to be conservator. Bonding is not optional if there are assets. If you cannot get a bond you cannot serve as the conservator. You can serve as a guardian; a guardian does not have to be bonded but a conservatorship does have to be bonded.

Judge Wolk: And don’t come into court and say ‘they’ don’t do this everywhere. ‘They’ don’t require bonds in other counties. Because I know you’re lying and I don’t care who ‘they’ are that tell you that. ‘They’ are not the judges. And we talk on e-mails and we know that there are no ‘they’s’! But there are rumors amongst people that there is some non existent county where you don’t have to post bonds. And I’ve had people come in that say ‘Well I heard you can waive it if you need to’. I can’t, I don’t have any discretion to waive it.

Mr. Biernath: The law does not give the court discretion to waive the bonding requirements. The law does give discretion to the court on what the amount the bond is. It does have to be at least one years worth of income and…

Judge Wolk: and the value of the removable assets.

Mr. Biernath: I don’t think real estate doesn’t have to be bonded.

Judge Wolk: You can’t steal dirt and take it to Mexico! So it will still be in Georgia and we can get it back.

Mr. Biernath: Guardians and conservators take an oath. If you are named guardian you raise your hand and swear that you are going to perform your duties to the best of your ability and then the court issues these magic pieces of paper called Letters of Guardianship and/or Letters of Conservatorship. That shows your authority to act on behalf of that individual. You present that to the doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, schools, any body who cars to look at them and is questioning your authority to act on behalf of that individual. You can even present it to police officers, district attorneys, even criminal court judges, now they might not care too much about it but they will at least allow you to participate in whatever process your loved one might be going through.

Judge Wolk: Right here is where you get an order from the court. The order does nothing. That nominates you then you are appointed. You are qualified; you are not the guardian or the conservator until you get the letters. You don’t legally have authority to do anything. The rights are removed with the order. The rights are not transferred to you until you get your letters. Does that make sense? We have people all the time who take the order to the bank and try to set up an account, sometimes they’re successful which stresses me out, and we have those to who take the order to the hospital! They are not the guardian or the conservator yet. They are not that [guardian/conservator] until they get that piece of paper.