There are many reasons why a conservatorship can be put in place. Beyond the reasons why the conservator is appointed by the court, there are important changes that occur after that you should keep in mind.
When a conservatorship is enacted, a conservator is required by law to act on behalf of a conservatee to make important decisions, which can include financial decisions, health decisions, living arrangements and more.
In short, the conservatee will no longer have control over his or her own decisions. In many cases, a conservator is put in place for an elderly individual who is incapacitated and cannot make important decisions on their own.
There are many types of conservatorships, and it is important to keep in mind that the specifics will vary from state to state. For example, some states, such as New York, use the term guardianship for what would be known as a conservatorship in other states.
Conservatorship Court Process: What You Need to Know
The court process related to conservatorship begins with a judge hearing evidence related to the potential conservatee’s mental capacity. Following this, the judge will determine if the individual in question is indeed incapacitated and therefore in need of a conservator.
In most cases, the conservator will be a trusted person who is a close relative of the conservatee. In some instances, several family members may feel that they should be the conservatee. When this happens, there are typically preferences established by state law that will determine who should be the conservator. Ultimately, the conservator is often one of the following: the conservatee’s spouse, one of the conservatee’s adult children, one of the conservatee’s blood relatives or the conservatee’s domestic partner.
In a small number of cases, there are no suitable family members available to be conservators. When this occurs, the judge will appoint an individual that has been selected by the state.
How Are Conservators Paid?
In most instances, a conservator will be compensated from the conservatee’s assets. However, payments are awarded to conservators that are selected by the state.
Does a Conservator Provide Financial Support to the Conservatee?
While a conservator often handles their conservatee’s financial matters, the conservator does not actually need to provide any financial support to the conservatee. If the conservatee faces financial hardship, it often falls upon the conservator and/or the conservatee’s other family members to step in and provide the necessary financial support.
A conservator must always act in the best interests of their conservatee, and therefore must pursue any and all applicable benefits such as:
- Social Security benefits
- Veterans Administration benefits
- Disability benefits
- Medical insurance
- Pension and Retirement benefits
- Public assistance
How Do Conservatorships End?
The majority of conservatorships end in the following two ways: the conservatee passes away or the court ends the conservatorship because it was temporary. However, there are a few other ways in which a conservatorship can end, including the conservatee’s financial assets running out and the conservator resigning due to being no longer able to handle the responsibilities. In the latter case, a new conservator will be appointed by the court. If the conservator happens to pass away, the court will also select a new conservator if the conservatee still requires one. There are many different types of conservatorships and, as mentioned above, the specifics of conservatorship differ from state to state. For more information about the conservatorship process, as well as various other estate planning topics, read our previous blog articles. If you are in need of legal assistance for any estate planning or elder law matters, contact us.