What is a Conservatorship?
A conservatorship is an arrangement in which a court gives an adult (called the “conservator”) legal authority to assist another adult (called the “conservatee”) who is unable to provide for his/her physical needs and/or financial needs. Conservatorships commonly arise when the conservatee has a condition (such as mental illness, dementia, a developmental disability, etc.) or is facing a situation (such as financial elder abuse) which prevents the conservatee from properly tending to his/her physical and/or financial needs.
There are two basic types of conservatorship: (1) conservatorship of the person and (2) conservatorship of the estate.
Conservatorship of the Person
Conservatorship of the person may be necessary for an adult who is unable to properly provide for his/her personal needs for any of the following:
- Physical health
Conservatorship of the Estate
A conservatorship of the estate is an arrangement in which the conservator has control over the conservatee’s financial resources. This can become necessary when the conservatee is unable to manage his/her finances, resist fraud, or resist undue influence.
When Does A Conservatorship End?
A conservatorship ends when any of the following events takes place:
- The conservator resigns and the court accepts the resignation
- The conservatee dies
- A court replaces the conservator with a new conservator or decides that the conservatee no longer needs a conservator
Why Working With An Attorney Is A Good Idea If You Are Considering A Conservatorship
There is a lot to know to be a competent conservator and it is easy for new conservators to make mistakes (and fail to follow the law) without even knowing it. Working with an attorney who is experienced in conservatorships can be a great way to:
- Become informed about what the law requires from a conservator
- Learn how to best fulfill the responsibilities that come with the conservator’s job
- Help the conservator prepare the voluminous paperwork required by the court
Getting a conservatorship established is no small feat. Conservatorships require a large volume of paperwork to be completed and filed with the court; certain persons also need to be served in a timely fashion with some of the paperwork. Making sure all of the paperwork is completed correctly while sufficiently addressing the issues the court wants to know about can be a daunting task.
If a conservatorship is established, there are many responsibilities the conservator will have (depending on the extent to which the conservatee’s rights have been taken away and given to the conservator). So, a conservator may only have limited responsibilities in some cases and far more responsibilities in others. Even though every conservatorship has its own nuances, there are some common responsibilities which typically arise, as follows:
Common responsibilities of the conservator of the person:
- Ensure the conservatee is receiving proper medical attention/healthcare
- Determine where the conservatee will live and ensure the living environment is safe and secure
- Ensure the conservatee has access to proper nutrition and clothing
- File status reports with the court as required
Common responsibilities of the conservator of the estate:
- Protect the conservatee’s income
- Pay the conservatee’s bills
- Ensure the assets are properly invested (sometimes this requires further court approval)
- Ensure the assets are properly insured
- File the conservatee’s tax returns
- Transfer ownership of assets to the conservator (there are some limitations on this which require further court approval)
- Review any retirement plans the conservatee has to determine his/her rights and benefits and determine if minimum withdrawals are required
- Make a budget
- Track all of the conservatee’s income and expenses
- File an Inventory and Appraisal with the court
- File accountings with the court at the designated times to show the amounts and sources of the conservatee’s income and expenses
There is a lot to know to be a competent conservator in compliance with the law. It is easy to overlook required aspects of the job if you are not well-versed in this area of the law. For this reason, it is highly recommended that anyone considering seeking a conservatorship consult with an experienced attorney before taking action.
For more information about Conservatorships, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (707) 900-4500 today.
The ideas discussed in this article are for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The reader should consult with an attorney to determine what is in the reader’s own best interest.