A conservatorship can be created by family members of an adult who can no longer manage her own financial affairs. This is often used to protect the elderly, but can also be created for other dependent adults, such as people who have been disabled in accidents or by illness.
How Do I Become a Conservator?
You can become a conservator for a dependent or elderly family member by going to family court and asking the judge to appoint you as a conservator. You will then have court-ordered authority and legal responsibility to manage the finances of the other adult. You will be supervised by the court and will be held legally accountable for all decisions.
Here are the basic steps to become a conservator:
1) Make a Request: Initiate a request with a family law attorney and/or the probate court. An individual can request a conservator for himself/herself and any adult can petition the probate court to be his conservator.
2) Provide Documentation : Provide documentation that the adult or family member cannot manage his or her own financial affairs.
3) Investigation by Court: Allow the courts to review the documentation and investigate the person who wants to be the conservator.
4) Attend Hearing: Attend the court hearing to determine the courts decision. If the court determines that the person is incapable of handling their own financial affairs and the petitioner has passed all background checks, the conservator will be legally appointed. Once appointed, the conservator has control of all or part of the individual's income, property and savings.
What about Medical Decisions?
A court can also appoint a "conservator of the person." This differs from being a "conservator of the estate" in that the former can make medical and living arrangement decisions, while the latter can only make financial decisions. As with conservators of the estate, conservators of the person will be supervised by the court and asked to account for decisions.
If you are a proposed conservatee (someone is trying to establish conservatorship over you), you can avoid having a court appoint a conservator by establishing a durable power of attorney. This means that you can personally choose the person you'd like to handle your affairs before such a need arises. Additionally, if you are a proposed conservatee or a concerned family member or friend, you can contest a proposed conservatorship. You will have to file some papers with the court and attend a legal hearing.
What Is the Difference Between a Conservator and Adult Guardian?
In some states, conservatorships are called adult guardianships, but the terms mean basically the same thing. If a court appoints a person to take care of another adult's financial matters, that person is usually called a "conservator of the estate," If the person is appointed to be in charge of medical and personal decisions, that person is a "conservator of the person."
Do I Need a Lawyer to Establish a Conservatorship?
Because of the important and personal nature of conservatorships, it would be wise to consult a family lawyer if you are a conservator or conservatee. Speaking with an experienced family lawyer will help you understand all of your options.