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When a minor does not have a responsible parent or adult to make daily living decisions for him or her, then that minor may be in need of a guardian. When a minor owns property or needs representation in a legal action, then that minor may need a conservator.
Generally, it can be said that the guardian makes decisions about the person, such as medical or housing decisions, and the conservator makes decisions about the property or the finances of the minor. A guardian and a conservator can be the same person or institution or they may be different. For example, a guardian could be a person and a conservator could be a trust company or bank.
A guardian or conservator may be appointed by a Probate Judge after a petition is filed in the Probate Court. The petition may be filed by anyone interested in the well being of the minor, except that one type of guardianship (limited) may only be requested by a parent having custody or by both parents if both parents have custody. For a limited guardianship, the Court must approve a placement plan for the minor, including how long the guardianship is to last.
When the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled as soon as possible (in some emergency cases, it may be possible to obtain an immediate temporary guardian before the hearing). The person who files the petition has the responsibility to properly notify the persons who have a right to know about the hearing. In guardianship cases, if a party is incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections, their name, address, and prisoner number must be listed on the petition to obtain this information, call 517-373-0284. In addition, the Court may appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate the situation and make a recommendation to the Court prior to the hearing.
On the date of the hearing, the petitioner and anyone else who wants to take part in the hearing goes before the Judge and explains the need for a guardian or conservator. The person who is appointed guardian is required to file an Acceptance of Appointment. The person who is appointed conservator must file an Acceptance of Appointment and may also be required to file a Bond to protect the minor’s assets. After filing the Acceptance of Appointment (and Bond, if required), Letters of Authority will be issued to the guardian or conservator. The Letters of Authority give the guardian or conservator the right to perform the following duties, unless the Court restricts their authority.
The Court will also review a guardianship each year if the child is less than six years old, and for older children as it thinks necessary.
Anyone, including the minor who is at least 14 years of age, may file a petition to modify the guardianship or conservatorship or to have a different guardian or conservator appointed. With the Court’s permission, the guardian may resign at any time. When the minor reaches 18 years of age or dies, the Court should be notified so that the guardianship or conservatorship can be ended and the Court’s case closed. Before the conservator can be discharged, a Final Account will have to be filed and approved by the Court and the Court will have to be satisfied that the minor (now adult) or his or her estate has received whatever assets remain.
If you have questions, please seek legal advice from an attorney. By law, court employees are not permitted to give legal advice.