If you’re reading this, chances are you’re trying to understand what a conservatorship is and how it might apply to your life. Maybe you have a loved one who is incapacitated and you’re trying to figure out the best way to care for them. Maybe you’re an adult who is concerned about your own financial or physical well-being and want to know what options you have for seeking help. Whatever your situation, it’s important to understand what a conservatorship is and how it works.
What Is a Conservatorship
A conservatorship is a legal relationship that is established when a person (called the “conservator”) is appointed by a court to manage the financial and/or personal affairs of another person (called the “conservatee”). The conservator is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the conservatee, who may be unable to do so due to mental or physical incapacitation.
There are two types of conservatorships: a conservatorship of the person and a conservatorship of the estate. A conservatorship of the person deals with the personal care of the conservatee, such as making decisions about medical treatment, housing, and other daily needs. A conservatorship of the estate deals with the financial affairs of the conservatee, such as managing their assets and paying their bills.
Why Is a Conservatorship Necessary?
A conservatorship may be necessary when an individual is unable to make their own decisions due to a physical or mental disability. This could include conditions like dementia, mental illness, or a severe physical injury. In some cases, the individual may have always had a disability and a conservatorship was established as a precautionary measure. In other cases, the individual may have developed a disability later in life and a conservatorship is necessary to ensure their well-being.
Regardless of the reason, a conservatorship is necessary to protect the individual and ensure that their needs are met. Without a conservatorship, the individual may be at risk of financial exploitation or abuse. A conservatorship gives the conservator the legal authority to act on behalf of the conservatee and make decisions in their best interests.
How Is a Conservatorship Established?
A conservatorship is established through a legal process that involves a petition being filed with the court. The petition may be filed by a family member, friend, or other interested party. The court will review the petition and determine if a conservatorship is necessary.
If the court determines that a conservatorship is necessary, it will appoint a conservator. The conservator may be a family member, friend, or professional, such as a lawyer or financial advisor. The conservator will be required to take an oath to act in the best interests of the conservatee and to manage their affairs responsibly.
The conservator will also be required to file regular reports with the court to provide an update on the conservatee’s well-being and the management of their affairs. The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the conservatee’s interests and ensure that the conservator is acting in their best interests.
Who Can Be a Conservator?
Anyone over the age of 18 can be a conservator, as long as they are not a convicted felon and are capable of managing the conservatee’s affairs. The court will consider the relationship between the conservator and the conservatee, as well as the conservator’s ability to manage the conservatee’s affairs responsibly.
In some cases, the court may appoint a professional conservator if the conservatee has a large estate or complex financial affairs. Professional conservators are often attorneys or financial advisors who have experience managing estates and are familiar with the legal and financial aspects of a conservatorship.
When appointing a conservator, the court will also consider the wishes of the conservatee, if they are able to express their preferences. If the conservatee has a legal document, such as a power of attorney or advance healthcare directive, the court will also consider these documents in making its decision.
What Does a Conservator Do?
The responsibilities of a conservator depend on the type of conservatorship that has been established. If the conservatorship is of the person, the conservator will be responsible for making decisions about the conservatee’s personal care, including:
- Medical treatment: The conservator will be responsible for making decisions about the conservatee’s medical treatment, including choosing a healthcare provider and consenting to medical procedures.
- Housing: The conservator will be responsible for finding and securing suitable housing for the conservatee, whether it’s in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or the conservatee’s own home.
- Personal care: The conservator will be responsible for making sure the conservatee’s basic needs are met, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding.
If the conservatorship is of the estate, the conservator will be responsible for managing the conservatee’s financial affairs, including:
- Managing assets: The conservator will be responsible for managing the conservatee’s assets, such as bank accounts, investments, and property.
- Paying bills: The conservator will be responsible for paying the conservatee’s bills, including rent, utilities, and other necessary expenses.
- Filing tax returns: The conservator will be responsible for filing the conservatee’s tax returns and paying any taxes that are owed.
In both types of conservatorships, the conservator will be required to keep accurate records of their actions and provide regular reports to the court.
How Can a Conservatorship Be Terminated?
A conservatorship can be terminated in several ways:
- The conservatee recovers: If the conservatee’s condition improves and they are able to make their own decisions again, the conservatorship can be terminated.
- The conservatee dies: If the conservatee passes away, the conservatorship will be terminated.
- The conservator resigns: The conservator can resign from their role at any time, but they must obtain the court’s approval before doing so.
- The court removes the conservator: If the court determines that the conservator is not acting in the best interests of the conservatee or is mismanaging their affairs, it can remove the conservator and appoint a new one.
A conservatorship is a legal relationship that allows a person to manage the financial and/or personal affairs of another person who is unable to do so due to a physical or mental disability. It is established through a legal process and is designed to protect the individual and ensure that their needs are met. If you’re considering seeking a conservatorship for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to understand the process and the responsibilities that come with it.