When a loved one is reaching a point where they are no longer able to manage their financial affairs is can be difficult convincing them to allow someone else to fulfill this role for them.  It may be that the family will try to avoid doing anything in the hopes that their loved one can be reasoned with in time. Waiting to take action, however, can have devastating consequences.  Under these circumstances, seeking conservatorship may be a good option to protect your loved one’s finances.

Conservatorship is a legal process that can be undertaken when an adult reaches a place where they can no longer manage their property, business affairs, and assets.  An indicator of whether or not a person is in this condition is that they can no longer make informed decisions about their finances or property. Unlike a guardian, who may be appointed to care for the person’s needs, a conservator may be appointed to manage a person’s finances and property.  A person can serve in both the guardian and conservator roles for a single individual.  A conservator will, in essence, take over an incapacitated person’s finances on their behalf.

To have a conservator appointed a person must go the probate court and file a petition stating why they think their loved one needs a conservator.   Anyone who has an interest in the person or who is being negatively impacted by their financial decisions may petition the court. The court will then investigate the allegations and will likely appoint an independent person known as a “Guardian Ad Litem” (GAL) to represent your loved one’s interest.  The court will then have a hearing and, if the court determines the person needs a conservator, the court will then appoint someone to serve in that capacity.

Anyone over the age of 18 can be appointed a conservator. However, the court will consider people in a specific order beginning with the person designated by the incapacitated party. From there the court will consider the person’s spouse, adult child, parent, or relative with whom the individual has lived for more than six months.  The court will consider the potential conservators in order but can appoint a person who is able and willing to serve. A conservator will have certain obligations and duties to protect the person’s interest and property and can charge reasonable fees for their services.

The court also has the option of designating another manner to protect the person’s financial interest without complete conservatorship. An incapacitated person can disagree with the conservatorship and present their case to the probate court.  If circumstances change, they may also petition the court at a later time to seek to have the conservatorship removed.

Deciding whether it is the right time to pursue a conservatorship can be complicated.  This decision will involve considering your loved one’s best interest as well as preserving their autonomy.  Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney will be of great assistance as you consider your alternatives.  Our office has attorneys who are experienced and can advise you about your options so you can make informed decisions.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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