Section 1. Purpose.
(a) Mission Statement. The mission of the guardianship monitoring program is to provide quality, impartial, and effective reviews of active guardianship and conservatorship cases.
(b) Objective. Reviewing guardianship and conservatorship cases will assist the district courts in the protection of vulnerable adults. Reviews will assess whether guardians and conservators are utilizing appropriate authority and acting in the best interest of the ward.
(c) Scope and Definition. This rule governs the guardianship monitoring program. Cases eligible for review must be randomly selected by the program manager or referred by a judicial officer when investigation is recommended.
Section 2. Program Management.
A program manager will oversee the operation of the program under the auspices of the supreme court and will report directly to the state court administrator or designee.
Section 3. Monitoring Process.
(a) Referral to Guardianship Monitoring. A judicial officer with concerns regarding an adult ward's finances or well-being may refer a guardianship or conservatorship case to the monitoring program.
(b) Program Acceptance of Referrals. Upon receipt of a referral, the program manager will notify the court if the case is accepted or declined for review.
(c) Random reviews. The program manager will schedule random reviews of active guardianship or conservatorship cases of adult wards. Random reviews will include at least one review annually for each professional guardian entity.
(d) Order and Schedule.(1) For well-being reviews, the program manager will prepare and file a proposed order for the district court to appoint a visitor. The visitor will meet with the ward and guardian, as well as other persons the visitor deems necessary.(2) For financial reviews, the program manager will prepare and file a proposed order directing the guardian or conservator to submit specified financial documents to the program manager. If documents are not received within the stated timeframe, the manager will notify the court for further direction.
Section 4. Appointment of Court Visitor.
(a) Qualifications. Visitors must meet the qualifications outlined in N.D.C.C. §30.1-28-08.
(b) Assignment. The program manager will maintain a list of qualified visitors who will independently manage cases assigned to them. Visitors will be assigned by the program manager. To maintain continuity, the program manager will attempt to reappoint the original visitor.
(c) Fees. Visitors appointed under this rule are independent contractors and their fees will be paid from funds available to the monitoring program.
(d) Access. The order appointing a visitor will stipulate that the visitor must have access to financial, educational, medical and other confidential records of the ward as allowed under N.D.C.C. §30.1-28-03.1.
Section 5. Conclusion of Review.
(a) Report of Visitor. In cases involving a well-being review, the visitor must file with the clerk of court a report of findings and recommendations based on the best interest of the ward. The court must review the report of findings and recommendations of the visitor to determine whether the guardian is in compliance, whether continuation of the guardianship or conservatorship is in the best interest of the ward, and/or whether a modification or termination of the guardianship or conservatorship is necessary. The court may, at its discretion, take any action it considers appropriate.
(b) Financial Review Report. In cases involving a financial review, the program manager must file with the clerk of court a written report of the findings. As appropriate, the report must contain information relating to sufficiency of documentation, unaccounted-for assets, any irregularities found, and an assessment of the level of risk of financial exploitation. The court must review the report of findings and recommendations of the program manager to determine whether the guardian or conservator is in compliance, whether continuation of the guardianship or conservatorship is in the best interest of the ward, and whether a modification or termination of the guardianship or conservatorship is necessary. The court may, at its discretion, take any action it considers appropriate.
(c) Report of Abuse or Neglect. When the program manager has reasonable cause to believe that a ward has been subjected to abuse or neglect, the program manager must submit a report in accordance with N.D.C.C. §§ 50-25.2-03 and 25-01.3-04 and notify the court that a report has been submitted for investigation.
Section 6. Program Evaluation.
The program manager will collect data to measure the impact of the program and provide an annual report to the supreme court.
Order 24 was adopted, effective January 1, 2018; amended effective August 11, 2021.
The order as originally proposed provided for immunity for the program manager and judiciary staff performing monitoring responsibilities for the guardianship monitoring program. The court opted not to include that provision after considering protections afforded to state employees under N.D.C.C. § 32-12.2-02.
Sources: Guardianship Standards Workgroup Minutes of March 22, 2016, May 16, 2016, July 7, 2016, September 19, 2016, October 10, 2016, April 3, 2017, July 31, 2017, and August 21, 2017.
CONSIDERED: N.D.C.C. §§ 30.1-28-08, 30.1-28-03.1, 32-12.2-02.