For those who have either assumed the responsibility or have been court-appointed to handle the probate process for an individual, probate bonds are often required to ensure any claims of mismanagement of an estate will be covered. However, a probate bond is a generic way of describing a wide variety of court-required surety bonds. To better understand probate bonds as a whole, one should familiarize his or herself with the various types of bonds that fall under the category of probate. For more information on the probate process, please feel free to read our additional coverage in Making Sense of the Probate Process and The Probate Process: A Q&A With Nathan Jones.
Probate Bonds for a Decedent’s Estate
An administrator, often used interchangeably with the term executor, covers whoever is appointed to oversee the probate process for a deceased individual. This individual will be in charge of all assets and personal property that make up an individual’s estate and as a result, they are liable to claims of fraud or mismanagement. This bond will ensure all valid claims of this nature will be covered.
An executor bond, often used interchangeably with an administrator bond, refers to an individual appointed to carry out the probate process. The executor is either appointed by the deceased while living or has been court-appointed upon the individual’s death. The executor bond will cover any valid claims of fraud or mismanagement of an estate made against the individual.
Personal Representative Bond
A personal representative refers to either an executor or administrator of a deceased individual’s will. A bond may be required of this person if deemed necessary by the court, to cover any claims made of fraud or mishandling of the estate that the personal representative has been tasked with managing.
A conservator, or guardian, refers to an individual placed in charge of those deemed incapable of responsibly taking care of the estate and assets entrusted to them. Reasons for an individual being unable to handle assets may include the individual being a minor or the individual is otherwise incapacitated and cannot handle an estate.
Guardian of Minor Bond
A guardian of a minor bond refers to a surety bond for a guardian in charge of individuals who a court has determined to not be of age to responsibly take care of the estate and assets entrusted to them. This bond would ensure any claims of mismanagement of the minor’s estate are covered.
Guardian of Incompetent Bond
A guardian of an incompetent refers to a person who is mentally impaired as a result of a mental or physical illness or disability and can no longer take care of his or her personal property or make important decisions. A guardian of an incompetent bond discourages a guardian from mismanaging any of the estate or assets.
Special Guardian Bond
A special guardian refers to an individual placed in charge of any assets entrusted to an individual with mental/physical disabilities that makes it impossible to responsibly handle financial, personal and health decisions. This individual may be a biological relative or a close friend, but could also be court appointed if no one is available. A bond would ensure this special guardian handles the individual’s estate accordingly.
Special Needs Trust Bond
Special needs trusts are created for those who struggle with mental/physical disabilities that render them incapable of caring for their estate or making important financial decisions. Purchasing a special needs trust bond ensures that the individual in charge of the trust can pay any claims of fraud or mismanagement that are made.
Temporary Guardian Bond
A temporary guardian refers to a guardian who assumes their role for a specified, short stretch of time. This individual is tasked with handling another’s financial, personal and health matters, while the individual is incapable of doing so. A temporary guardian may be necessary following an individual’s incapacitation, if a substitution is needed for the permanent guardian, or if a normal guardian has not been officially selected before an emergency occurs. This type of bond ensures the temporary guardian is handling the individual’s estate and important decisions accordingly.
A trustee is a person who is legally entitled to whatever assets are listed in a trust, often set up before an individual is deceased. A trustee has the responsibility to manage the assets in the trust, as well as has the power to sell the assets, make repairs on an estate, take out insurance on the property, pay all bills relevant to assets and the estate, and make all necessary distributions and payments to beneficiaries. Probate codes should be thoroughly reviewed according to the state for further powers of the trustee, as each state has its own regulations and laws. A trustee bond is often required by the probate court.
Veterans Administration Bond
Veterans or beneficiaries who are unable to manage their financial affairs due to disease, injury, age or other factors need a fiduciary. Because they are tasked to make decisions in the best interest of the veteran, appointed individuals are usually family members or close friends. When no qualified family member or friend can serve, a fiduciary will be assigned to the individual. To ensure suitability, Veterans Affairs will perform an investigation before assigning an individual and will conclude some fiduciaries must get a surety bond before acting on behalf of the veteran.
Understanding the various terms and types of bonds associated with probate can help simplify the probate process and ensure a smooth transition regardless of the specifics of the situation. It is always important to check regulations and laws in each state before beginning probate to ensure a problem-free process.
If you’re in the market for a probate bond or have additional questions about probate bonding requirements in your state, feel free to visit SuretyBonds.com.