In California you need to understand the basics of surety bonds if you’re going to be acting as:
- Executor or administrator in charge of the probate decedent’s estate court proceeding (or “probate”) of someone who has passed away;
- Conservator in charge of the conservatorship court proceeding (or “conservatorship”) for an adult who can’t take care of himself anymore; or
- Guardian in charge of the guardianship court proceeding (or “guardianship”) for a minor who needs someone to manage his affairs.
What Is a Bond?
A surety bond, often referred to simply as a bond, is like an insurance policy. It’s a contract that makes one party liable for the debt, default, or failure of another party.
For example, it’s probably better to hire a plumber who is bonded than one who is not. The bond will provide funds to pay for the damages if, while fixing a dripping faucet, he accidentally floods your house.
Why Would You Need a Bond in a Probate, Conservatorship, or Guardianship?
Probates, conservatorships of the estate, and guardianships of the estate have something in common. They all involve one person managing assets for the benefit of another person.
In those situations, the court considers requiring a bond as a safeguard. A bond protects the assets in case the person in charge mismanages or absconds with them. The bond is a good back-up plan. It’s not a substitute for putting a trustworthy person in charge of the assets.
Courts Almost Always Require Bonds for Probates, Conservatorships, and Guardianships
Courts almost always require executors and administrators of probates, conservators of conservatorship estates, and guardians of guardianship estates to file a bond. Courts have ways of vetting potential executors, administrators, conservators, and guardians.
Still, no judge is familiar enough with any party to a case to know whether that party is absolutely trustworthy. The judge can’t be sure that an executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian won’t mismanage or abscond with the assets.
That’s why the court often requires an executor, administrator, conservator, or guardian to file proof of a bond. Normally the court won’t generate the paperwork documenting that person’s authority until she files the bond with the court.
Then if she mismanages or absconds with the assets, the company that issued the bond may be responsible for replacing the lost value.
This does not usually apply to a probate of a will. The court rarely requires the executor to file a bond if the will expressly waives the requirement of a bond. Wills often waive that requirement.
Also the court may not require a bond if all of the probate beneficiaries waive that requirement.
Similarly, in conservatorships, the court can dispense with the requirement of a bond if:
- The assets and income of the conservatorship estate (excluding the residence and government benefits) are sufficiently low in value; and
- The conservator preserved or spent all income to benefit the conservatee (the person for whose benefit the conservatorship exists).
The court can dispense with the requirement of a bond in guardianships based on the same requirements pertaining to conservatorships.
How Do You Get a Bond?
Various companies are in the business of providing bonds to administrators and executors of probates, conservators of conservatorships of the estate, and guardians of guardianships of the estate.
They charge an annual premium for providing bonds. The greater the assets and income at issue, the larger the bond amount, and the higher the annual bond premium.
Normally executors and administrators, conservators, and guardians don’t need to pay the annual bond premium from their personal assets. They normally can pay it from the assets of the probate, conservatorship, or guardianship, respectively.
Get Help from an Experienced Probate, Conservatorship, and Guardianship Attorney
There are many more details and intricacies of probates, conservatorships, and guardianships.
If you don’t fully understand those details and intricacies, then you may not be able to qualify for a bond. That may prevent you from becoming administrator or executor of a probate, conservator of a conservatorship of the estate, or guardian of a guardianship of the estate.
Or you may obtain a bond in an amount that is larger than required. This would create unnecessarily high annual bond premium payments.
Hiring an attorney experienced with probates, conservatorships, and guardianships can help you avoid this. The guidance of an attorney experienced with probate court cases is also invaluable for attaining your goals in these cases.
At Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., we have over 20 years of experience helping clients achieve their goals in probate, conservatorship, and guardianship cases. Contact Meinzer Law Firm, P.C., in Torrance to assist you with your California probate, conservatorship, or guardianship court case.