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Conservatorships

What is a Conservatorship?

When someone is unable to handle their financial and/or personal affairs, the court can step in to appoint someone (the conservator) to make decisions for the incapacitated individual (conservatee). This process is called a probate conservatorship.

If a court appoints someone to take care of only financial matters, that person is usually referred to as “conservator of the estate.” On the other hand, if the court appoints someone to make medical and personal decisions they are usually called “conservator of the person.”

What are the advantages of a Conservatorship?

In many cases, a conservatorship can provide needed protection for a loved one against physical and/or financial abuse because the court heavily supervises the conservator. The court requires the conservator to file with the court an inventory and appraisal of all of the conservatee’s assets. In addition, the conservator must also file detailed accounting of all transactions involving the conservatee’s assets. A conservatorship can provided needed structure and court supervision to manage an incapacitated person’s affairs when no other safeguard is in place, especially in instances where that person is reluctant to accept assistance.

What are the disadvantages of a conservatorship?

The court is very involved in conservatorships, which can be time consuming and incur substantial filing fees, court investigator fees, and attorney’s fees. A conservatorship proceeding is public, so the conservatee’s assets become a matter of public record. This may be highly intrusive for someone who values independence and privacy.

The conservator must also return to court to obtain court approval for certain transactions, which may require additional hearings and filing fees. In addition, a conservator of the estate must also post a bond, which acts as a kind of insurance policy against mishandling of the conservatee’s assets.

Most importantly, the conservatee has given up all rights to manage their own affairs and make their own decisions.

How can I avoid a conservatorship?

A conservatorship can easily be avoided by having a Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will (also know as an Advanced Health Care Directive) prepared by an attorney and signed before a health crisis occurs. That way someone you’ve already handpicked can step in and make financial and health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated in any way.

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