Frequently Asked Questions for Guardians and Conservators

Frequently Asked Questions for Guardians and Conservators

When is my next hearing?

When is my next hearing?
When is my next hearing?

You’ll need to contact the county court where your case is being held to obtain this information. Contact information for county courts can be found at this link.

What is my case number?

What is my case number?
What is my case number?

You’ll need to contact the county court where your case is being held to obtain this information. Contact information for county courts can be found at this link.

How do I get my ward access to services and resources?

How do I get my ward access to services and resources?
How do I get my ward access to services and resources?

Information about services and resources for wards can be found at: https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/programs-services/office-public-guardian/guardian-conservator-resources

We are always looking for new resources and updating this page to make it easier to use.

Have I fulfilled all of my statutory requirements?

Have I fulfilled all of my statutory requirements?
Have I fulfilled all of my statutory requirements?

Look at your Annual Report Packet. The first few pages outline what you’ll need to do to file the packet. Additionally, look at the responsibilities outlined in your Letters of Guardianship or Conservatorship to determine whether you are meeting all that is expected of you.

Do you need to have a separate checking account for the ward’s money if the ward is a minor?

Do you need to have a separate checking account for the ward’s money if the ward is a minor?
Do you need to have a separate checking account for the ward’s money if the ward is a minor?

The simple answer to this question is yes. In order to ensure that wards are not taken advantage of, the Supreme Court requires that guardians and conservators keep their money separated from their ward’s money. We recognize that this might seem inconvenient but it is crucial for protecting the interests of wards throughout Nebraska who are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. One thing that you can do, which may be helpful in this situation, is petition the court to set a monthly budget for your ward (use this form) the court will then allow you to reimburse yourself from your ward’s funds (which MUST be kept in a separate account) for expenses that are approved by the court in your monthly budget.

Why does a parent have to become a guardian and do such extensive financial reporting when a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities turns 19?

Why does a parent have to become a guardian and do such extensive financial reporting when a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities turns 19?
Why does a parent have to become a guardian and do such extensive financial reporting when a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities turns 19?

We recognize that this might seem inconvenient and invasive since it seems you are merely continuing your duties as a parent beyond the age of majority for your child. However, this system is in place for some very important reasons. The state of Nebraska wants to preserve the civil rights of all of its residents to the greatest extent possible regardless of intellectual or developmental disability. So, when a person with an intellectual or developmental disability reaches the age of majority they automatically gain access to certain civil rights (e.g. the right to make all legal, medical, and financial decisions for themselves). A person must be deemed legally incapacitated by a court in order designate another person, such as a parent, in this case, to make decisions on their behalf. These designated decision makers, better known as “guardians,” are held to a higher legal standard than parents because of the gravity and longevity of their role. Though this practice involves more work for both parents and the courts, it is crucial for protecting the interests of wards throughout Nebraska who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

What if the Judge on my case tells me to do something differently from what is taught in Guardian/Conservator Education?

What if the Judge on my case tells me to do something differently from what is taught in Guardian/Conservator Education?
What if the Judge on my case tells me to do something differently from what is taught in Guardian/Conservator Education?

If the Judge on your case tells you to do something different from what you learned in Guardian/Conservator Education you should do what your Judge tells you. Guardian/Conservator Education is designed to fit the needs of a variety of cases but Judges can waive or adjust requirements as they see fit. In the end, your Judge is the primary authority on your case, listen to whatever they ask you to do. While having the particulars in your court order is best practice, that may not always happen so listen carefully to the instructions you receive from your judge.

Can I reimburse myself with the wards funds for expenses/loans?

Can I reimburse myself with the wards funds for expenses/loans?
Can I reimburse myself with the wards funds for expenses/loans?

You may not reimburse yourself with funds from your ward for any reason unless the court gives you prior authorization to do so. One thing that you can do, which may be helpful in this situation, is petition the court to set a monthly budget for your ward (use this form) the court will then allow you to reimburse yourself from your ward’s funds (which MUST be kept in a separate account) for expenses that are approved by the court in your monthly budget. If you have fees or attorney expenses for which you require reimbursement you can use this form to petition the court for reimbursement. If you have questions about financial matters or reimbursement of certain expenses you may file this form to ask the court to provide you with further instructions.

What is the difference between a Successor Guardian and a Court Visitor?

What is the difference between a Successor Guardian and a Court Visitor?
What is the difference between a Successor Guardian and a Court Visitor?

Court Visitors are people who volunteer with the OPG to serve as investigators on guardianship cases. They undergo specialized training and, when someone petitions the court to deem an individual legally incapacitated and therefore in need of a guardian, they investigate on behalf of the court and develop a report which helps the court decide if full guardianship is necessary or if some less restrictive option can be employed instead. Additionally, if the court decides that full guardianship is necessary in a case that the OPG is nominated to serve on, Court Visitor reports are used to help inform decisions we must make on behalf of the ward. Court Visitors are an invaluable part of the OPG and save time and resources for both the OPG, and the courts.

Can I have a bank account with my ward where both our funds are direct deposited?

Can I have a bank account with my ward where both our funds are direct deposited?
Can I have a bank account with my ward where both our funds are direct deposited?

The simple answer to this question is no. To ensure that wards are not taken advantage of, the Supreme Court requires that guardians and conservators keep their money separated from their ward or protected person’s money. We recognize that this might seem inconvenient but it is crucial for protecting the interests of wards and protected persons throughout Nebraska who are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. One thing that you can do, which may be helpful in certain situations, is petition the court to set a monthly budget for your ward (use this form) the court will then allow you to reimburse yourself from your ward’s funds (which MUST be kept in a separate account) for expenses that are approved by the court in your monthly budget.

Can I use a debit card for my ward, or give the ward a debit card?

Can I use a debit card for my ward, or give the ward a debit card?
Can I use a debit card for my ward, or give the ward a debit card?

We recommend using pre-paid debit cards for wards. This allows you to better control how money is being spent by your ward or protected person if they are using the card independently. You should save receipts so that if you ever need to respond to an audit, you can do so. Using a debit card responsibly and saving receipts are an important part of independent living, you should help your ward or protected person to learn and exercise this skill for themselves whenever you can while also maintaining responsible oversight of your ward or protected person’s finances.

What if a bank says that the guardian’s name must be on the ward’s account?

What if a bank says that the guardian’s name must be on the ward’s account?
What if a bank says that the guardian’s name must be on the ward’s account?

Present the bank with your Letters of Guardianship or Conservatorship and note the section of your Letters that shows you are legally responsible for your ward or protected person’s finances. Explain that the court requires your finances and your ward or protected person’s finance remain separated in order to ensure the financial protection of your ward or protected person. Often the bank will set up a guardianship specific account that has your ward’s name listed as the primary accountholder and you listed as their guardian. If one bank doesn’t want to comply with this, you can try another bank. Unfortunately, different types of accounts can have a variety of restrictions. So, if you try the strategies above and they don’t work you may need to contact an attorney.

What is the difference between co-guardians and Successor Guardians?

What is the difference between co-guardians and Successor Guardians?
What is the difference between co-guardians and Successor Guardians?

Successor Guardians are people who take over guardianship responsibilities for a ward that was previously cared for through the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) or some other guardian. If you are removed as guardian, resign from your duties as guardian, or can no longer serve as guardian because you die, the person who takes over your guardianship responsibilities is called a Successor Guardian.  The OPG highly values the work done by Successor Guardian volunteers who take over guardianship responsibilities for wards that were previously cared for through the Office of Public Guardian (OPG). Their work allows the OPG to serve on more, and more difficult guardianship cases for vulnerable adults who truly have no one in their lives that can serve as guardian for them in their time of need. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Successor Guardian with the OPG please email chelsea.richardson@nebraska.gov or call (402) 378-1771 for more information.

Co-guardians are multiple people who all serve a single ward and are all responsible for the duties of guardianship for that ward. For example, if a ward has two co-guardians both of them must sign all court forms. Some counties have a local rules that prohibit co-guardians (for example: Douglas does not allow co-guardians).

I want to ask the court to sell a car, house, property, etc. How do I do that without an attorney?

I want to ask the court to sell a car, house, property, etc. How do I do that without an attorney?
I want to ask the court to sell a car, house, property, etc. How do I do that without an attorney?

To petition the court for assistance you may use this form.

When selling ward property it is important to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest. Do not sell a ward’s property to a family member or friend (or anyone) for less than market value, always have an independent assessment done of the value of the property.

My ward has a restricted account, but they are now 16 and I want to buy them a car. How do I do that without getting an attorney involved?

My ward has a restricted account, but they are now 16 and I want to buy them a car. How do I do that without getting an attorney involved?
My ward has a restricted account, but they are now 16 and I want to buy them a car. How do I do that without getting an attorney involved?

Ask the court’s permission to withdraw money from restricted accounts using the Application for Withdrawal of Funds form which can be found here, along with a Certificate of Mailing Application for Withdrawal of Funds form which can be found here.

Can my ward have their own bank account for spending money?

Can my ward have their own bank account for spending money?
Can my ward have their own bank account for spending money?

Yes. In fact, your ward must always have an account that is separate from the guardian’s. However, if the court deems you responsible for the finances of your ward, you must ensure the protection of your ward’s finances at all times. We recommend using pre-paid debit cards for wards. This allows you to better control how money is being spent by your ward or protected person if they are using the card independently. You should save receipts so that if you ever need to respond to an audit, you can do so. Using a debit card responsibly and saving receipts are an important part of independent living, you should help your ward or protected person to learn and exercise this skill for themselves whenever you can while also maintaining responsible oversight of your ward or protected person’s finances.

My ward just got approved for a new benefit or income source. What do I do with that money?

My ward just got approved for a new benefit or income source. What do I do with that money?
My ward just got approved for a new benefit or income source. What do I do with that money?

The money should go into an account that belongs to the ward and be used to support the ward. Some benefits require special handling such as being kept in a separate account and not commingled with other funds, or only being used for specific purposes. You should comply with any special requirements that a benefit entails. If the new benefit or income source has a liquid value of $500 or more, a Notice of Newly Discovered Assets form should be filed with the court to notify them of the asset, income, inheritance, etc.

What will happen to my ward if I am no longer able to serve as their guardian?

What will happen to my ward if I am no longer able to serve as their guardian?
What will happen to my ward if I am no longer able to serve as their guardian?

The answer to this question will depend on the reasons you can no longer serve as guardian. If you are deceased, then the guardianship will either transfer to a testamentary guardian that you designate in your Will, or if you do not designate a testamentary guardian, your ward will no longer have a guardian. For this reason it is VERY IMPORTANT to designate a testamentary guardian in your Will. If you ask the court for permission to resign from your duties as guardian, then the court will expect you to suggest a Successor Guardian to serve as guardian for your ward in your absence. If you are removed as guardian for good cause the court may work to designate a responsible Successor Guardian.

What do I do if I need to be bonded?

What do I do if I need to be bonded?
What do I do if I need to be bonded?

If you need to be bonded then you may want to speak to an attorney. An insurance agent can assist guardians in obtaining a bond. You will need a certified copy of your Orders of Guardianship and the order should state specifically the amount of the bond required. Estates of $10K or more need to be bonded unless this requirement is waived by the court for good cause shown. Estates valued at $10K or less do not need to be bonded.

How do I begin the process of filing for guardianship?

How do I begin the process of filing for guardianship?
How do I begin the process of filing for guardianship?

The process of filing for guardianship is described here.

Your first step will be for you or your lawyer to file a petition for guardianship with the court 

How do I make a serious medical decision for my ward?

How do I make a serious medical decision for my ward?
How do I make a serious medical decision for my ward?

It can be very difficult to make medical decisions on behalf of your ward. Do not wait until a medical crisis exists to gather information that might be needed to make a serious medical decision. First you’ll want to gain a clear understanding of ALL the relevant medical facts. Next, make sure you know about all of the the healthcare/treatment options, along with the risks and benefits of each option. For this, this worksheet is VERY helpful. Additionally, always remember to maximize the participation of your ward whenever possible. If your ward is incapable of participation consider what they would have done if they were capable based on their prior wishes, beliefs, cultural or religious identity, etc. If this is not possible, consider all of the ward’s options and do what is in their objective best interest. Finally, if you are making a decision that involves withholding food or medical treatment you are required to file a petition for instructions with the court.

Can I move my ward outside of the state of Nebraska?

Can I move my ward outside of the state of Nebraska?
Can I move my ward outside of the state of Nebraska?

You must get approval from the court to move your ward outside of the state of Nebraska. To do this you will need to use this form to ask permission from the court to move your ward outside of Nebraska. You should only move your ward if it is in their best interest. Additionally, if you only filed for guardianship in Nebraska, your Letters only allow you to act as guardian on behalf of your ward in Nebraska. If you move your ward outside of Nebraska you should educate yourself on guardianship procedures in the state or nation where you are moving your ward and, if necessary, re-establish your guardianship in the new location.

Can I take my ward out of the state on vacation?

Can I take my ward out of the state on vacation?
Can I take my ward out of the state on vacation?

Yes, this is fine as long as you bring them back. It is recommended that you keep a copy of your Letters with you on vacation just in case of hospitalization, law enforcement involvement, etc. Also, keep in mind, your Letters may not allow you to act as guardian on behalf of your ward in Nebraska. However, guardianship is typically accepted by other states/services as long as the ward hasn’t moved to that state without transferring the case to the courts of that state.

How do I decide where my ward should live?

How do I decide where my ward should live?
How do I decide where my ward should live?

You should choose a residence option for your ward that allows them to reside as closely as possible to people and activities that are important to them. When considering an involuntary move to a long-term placement in an institutional setting, the decision should be based on the need to minimize the risk of harm to your ward, to obtain the most appropriate placement possible, and to secure the best treatment for your ward. If a change is made in your ward’s living situation, a change of address form for the ward needs to be given to the court. Also, guardians must get court permission prior to changing the permanent place of residence of the ward to a location outside the state of Nebraska. This is the form you’ll need in making such a request.

Can I physically force my ward to take medication?

Can I physically force my ward to take medication?
Can I physically force my ward to take medication?

You can consent to your ward being prescribed medication, however it is not recommended to physically force a ward to take medication as this can be considered assault. If you believe your ward requires medication that they refuse to take, Disability Rights Nebraska has put together a helpful guide to Nebraska’s Mental Health Commitment Act which may be of use in your situation.

What do I do when my ward won’t do what I told them to do?

What do I do when my ward won’t do what I told them to do?
What do I do when my ward won’t do what I told them to do?

Each case will need to be evaluated individually. However, there are a number of things to consider when managing difficult situations with your ward. First, maintain self-control, avoid an escalation, and try revisiting the situation when everyone has calmed down. Also, remember to interject empathy without using empathetic statements as excuses for unacceptable behavior. Pick your battles carefully. Consider whether this is a situation where the getting the ward to do whatever it is you want them to do is worth the effort entailed on your part. Remember to separate the person from the issue you’re discussing. Try putting the spotlight on the other person: Ask, “What do you think needs to happen next?” Keep the focus on “how to solve the problem” instead of “what’s wrong”. Humor can be a useful tool for diffusing tension but make sure the humor you are using is appropriate. Keep your interactions positive and avoid sarcasm. If communication breakdown occurs address it immediately (For example, “That’s not what I said,” “Could you let me finish,” “I think we are actually saying the same thing”). Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements - instead of “You never sent me an email” say “I never received an email”. Use these tips to try and come to a mutual understanding with your ward whenever possible.

Is my ward allowed to have sex?

Is my ward allowed to have sex?
Is my ward allowed to have sex?

Yes. One of the fundamental rights that wards retain even under guardianship is the right to have sex and procreate.

Can I force my ward to use birth control?

Can I force my ward to use birth control?
Can I force my ward to use birth control?

One of the fundamental rights that wards retain even under guardianship is the right to have sex and procreate. However, if the court decides that doing so is in the ward’s best interest, it can modify a ward’s right to procreate. Like all decisions made on behalf of your ward, it is better to involve your ward in the decision making process. Try to help your ward understand a need for birth control and, if it is medically safe, elect to use a form of birth control that you only have to interact with minimally like an IUD or subdermal implant. This way you minimize the number of times that you have to have the difficult conversation.