Guardianship of a minor child means that a responsible adult other than the child’s parent has been appointed by the court to have legal authority to make decisions concerning the minor child’s life.
A guardian is an adult, a person 18 or older, and someone other than the child’s parent, who has been determined by the court to be a responsible person and who is acting in the best interests of the minor child. Once appointed by the court, a guardian is responsible for the physical care and custody of the child and for virtually all decision making, including health care, education, residence, social and other activities, and financial matters. A court order may limit the guardian’s decision making authority.
A minor child is a child under 18 who is not emancipated. Emancipation occurs by court order, marriage, or enlistment in armed forces.
A conservator is a court-appointed person, or agency, who has the legal authority to handle the minor’s estate. Very often, the court appoints at the same time a guardian and conservator for the minor. The same person may serve as both guardian and conservator. In general, if the amount of the minor’s estate is $10,000 or less, then the guardian is able to handle the estate without appointment as conservator. Sometimes the court appoints only a conservator for the minor child if the child needs someone to handle financial assets for the child. A child’s parent can be appointed to serve as the child’s conservator if the child has financial assets that need management.
A representative payee is an adult appointed through an administrative process with the Social Security Administration. Some minors receive Social Security benefits. In most cases, a court-appointed guardian or conservator must also become the minor’s representative payee to handle the minor’s Social Security benefits.
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