Q: What are the duties of a legal guardian for elderly parents?

A: The term "legal guardian" has different meanings in different states. I'll take it to mean that your question applies to the duties of a person who was appointed guardian over an incompetent elder by a court. A guardianship is also called a conservatorship in some places. The guardianship can cover either the person's money, or the person's safety and welfare, or both.

The duties of a guardian, generally speaking, are to oversee the welfare and safety of the person under guardianship, and to attend to the financial needs of the individual, using his or her assets wisely. A guardian has a legal duty, called a "fiduciary duty", to act in the best interests of the individual. A guardian has total control over the person they are appointed to serve.

They can decide how to spend the elder's money, where the elder will live, what medical care the elder will receive, and how much freedom the elder has in his or her life. The powers can be total. An elder under guardianship loses the freedom to make decisions for himself or herself about all important aspects of life.

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The guardian also has a duty to protect the elder from abuse, to keep complete records of all expenditures, and to report regularly to the court which appointed the guardian, as to the elder's finances and status. The requirements vary somewhat from state to state, but generally, the court decides how often the guardian must return to court to report to the court how all money is spent, and what the status is of the elder. Being a guardian is a very heavy responsibility. It is formal, public and supervised.