The Supreme Court adopted extensive amendments to the Guardianship Rules, which were effective June 1, 2015. Among these amendments is the requirement for all guardians to file an “Annual Plan” with the Probate Court. This new requirement has raised a number of questions:
- What should be in these Annual Plans?
- How is the Annual Plan different from the Guardian’s Report?
- How is the Annual Plan different from service plans, such as Individual Service Plans developed by local boards of developmental disabilities?
- What should be included in an Annual Plan?
What are the Rules?
Rule 66.08(G) states:
A guardian of a person shall file annually with the Probate Division of the Court of Common Pleas a Guardianship Plan as an addendum to the Guardian’s Report. A guardian of an estate may be required to file an annual guardianship plan with the Probate Division of the Court of Common Pleas. The Guardianship Plan shall state the guardian’s goals for meeting the ward’s personal and financial needs.
Several points are worth noting:
- All guardians of person are required to file an annual plan;
- Individual courts have discretion to require annual plans from guardians of estate;
- The rule specifies that the guardian’s plans be filed annually and attached as an addendum to the guardian’s report (a different form – see below);
- Filing a guardian’s report does not meet the requirement for a guardian’s plan.
How Does the Guardian’s Plan Differ from the Guardian’s Report?
The Guardian’s Plan
The Guardian’s Plan is only required by Rule 66 and must simply state the guardian’s goals for meeting the ward’s personal and financial needs. The scope of the guardian’s plan differs by county. Hamilton County Probate Court, for example, has a one-page form with six blank lines for the guardian to use to define the plan (Form 17.7A); in contrast, Montgomery County Probate Court’s form is seven pages with detailed questions (Form 17.0L).
The Guardian’s Report
Ohio guardianship law 2111.49(A)(1) requires a report by the guardian every two years. Some courts require this report annually. The statute specifies that the content of the report must include the following. Since these elements are required by statute, there is less discretion for individual courts to alter the content.
- The present addresses for the ward and guardian;
- The approximate number of times that the guardian has had contact with the ward since the last report, the nature of those contacts, and the date that the ward was last seen by the guardian;
- Any major changes in the physical or mental condition of the ward observed by the guardian;
- The opinion of the guardian as to the necessity for the continuation of the guardianship;
- The opinion of the guardian as to the adequacy of the present care of the ward;
- The date that the ward was last examined or otherwise seen by a physician and the purpose of that visit;
A statement by a licensed physician, licensed clinical psychologist, licensed independent social worker, licensed professional clinical counselor, or mental retardation team that has evaluated or examined the ward within three months prior to the date of the report as to the need for continuing the guardianship.
How Does the Guardian’s Plan Differ from Individual Service Plans?
Many individuals under guardianship have service plans, such as the Individual Service Plans (“ISP”) developed by county boards of developmental disabilities, or a nursing home’s Plan of Care. Some court may prefer to have such plans attached to the guardian’s plan.
Comparing an ISP to what the rule requires for a guardian’s plan:
- An ISP is based on assessments by a team. The focus of the ISP is on what/who is important to/for person and defines desired outcomes, not goals. The ISP defines the services needed to achieve the defined outcomes.
- A Guardian’s Plan is focused on what the guardian plans to do to meet the personal and financial needs of the ward.
What Should a Guardian Do When a Plan is Due?
The Supreme Court’s rules give some flexibility for each county’s probate court to specify how the new rule will apply, so the first job is to find out what forms your county has developed. The forms should specify the level of detail which the court expects and whether a separate plan is required for guardians of estate in that county. If there is no form adopted by the court, check with nearby courts to get an idea of what to include in the plan.
As a related matter, you should clarify how often the plan needs to be submitted. The rule specifies an annual plan to be attached to the Guardian’s Report – the Guardian’s Report, by statute, is only due every two years, although some courts require an annual report.
A Guardian’s Plan should be based on a thorough knowledge of the ward’s situation, needs, desires and history. Getting to know the ward and the ward’s support network well is essential. You should maintain records of medical care, prescriptions, changes in condition or placement and other significant events or developments.
The goals, whether personal or financial, should be based on what the guardian can reasonably accomplish during the upcoming year. The goals should be specific, achievable and measurable. As future plans become due, the guardian should be able to track meaningful changes, however small.