Sometimes those we love become unable to care for themselves either physically or financially. This person is legally called the ‘proposed conservatee.’ If this occurs, and that person did not plan ahead and sign a durable power of attorney or an advanced health care directive, that person will need a conservator. Upon the granting of a conservatorship petition, the appointed conservator will have court-ordered authority and responsibility over the now conservatee’s affairs.
There are two types of conservatorships: Conservatorship of the Person and Conservatorship of the Estate.
Conservatorship of the Person
The conservator of the person is responsible for the care of the person deemed incapable of caring for themselves.The duties of a conservator of the person include:
- Arranging for the conservatee’s care and protection
- Deciding where the conservatee will live
- Making arrangements for the conservatee’s meals, clothing, personal care, transportation, shelter, and well-being.
Conservatorship of the Estate
The conservator of the estate is responsible for the conservatee’s financial matters. The duties of a conservator of the estate include:
- Managing the conservatee’s finances
- Locating and controlling all assets
- Paying the conservatee’s bills
- Investing the conservatee’s money responsibly
- Protecting the conservatee’s assets
- Filing annual (or bi-annual) reports to the court regarding the conservatee’s finances
One of the main hurdles that a party seeking a conservatorship of the estate must face is that the court will likely require the posting of a bond. Generally, that bond will be set at 10% of the proposed conservatee’s estate.
Who Can be a Conservator?
There is a mistaken belief that only family can petition to be a conservator. This is not the case. In fact, there are a number of people who can file for a conservatorship. Those include: the spouse or domestic partner of the proposed conservatee, a relative of the proposed conservatee, any interested state or local entity or agency, or any interested person or friend of the proposed conservatee.
Although there are a number of different people that may file a petition to be appointed a conservator, the court does have an order of preference. That order is:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Adult child
- Any other legally approved person
- Public Guardian
Ultimately, the selection of the conservator is up to the judge and the judge will look to the best interests of the proposed conservatee when making this decision.
The Legal Process to Becoming a Conservator
The conservatorship process can be long, arduous, and full of paperwork. One misstep can lead to the court postponing the appointment or even rejecting the petition altogether. Furthermore, to make a potentially stressful process even more so, other parties outside of your control have a role to play. Those other parties include:
- The proposed conservatee’s doctor (for Conservatorship of the Person)
- A court investigator
- A court-appointed attorney for the proposed conservatee
A failure by one of these parties to promptly file their reports can cause delays. While these delays are not universal, it is important to realize that this process is not quick. However, with the help of your conservatorship attorney, we can work to make this process go as smoothly as possible.