In a Conservatorship, a judge appoints a responsible person (Conservator) to care for another adult (Conservatee) who cannot care for him/herself or manage his/her own finances. A Conservatorship is often appropriate for someone who is incapacitated, frail, ill or developmentally disabled. Conservatorships are court-appointed; the Conservator is responsible to the court, assumes clearly defined jobs and responsibilities and must keep careful records and be accountable.
There are two kinds of conservatorships
- A General Conservatorship is needed when a person who once was independent and cared for himself/herself can no longer do so. It can be the result of a serious injury, Alzheimer’s Disease, or a serious medical or psychological problem.
- Limited Conservatorships are for those situations in which the Conservatee is developmentally disabled. The developmentally disabled often can live fairly independent lives and do many things on their own, so at the court hearing, the judge gives the Limited Conservator power to do those things the Conservatee cannot do without help, including managing finances, signing contracts, making decisions about education, training and marriage.
There are two categories of authority to consider when applying for Conservatorship:
- Conservatorship of the person: The responsibilities of a Conservator of the Person are to oversee quality-of-life issues, arranging for the Conservatee’s daily care, safety and protection. This includes making arrangements for healthcare, food, clothing, transportation, housing and recreation.
- Conservatorship of the Estate.The Conservatee’s money and property are the Estate. A Conservatorship of the Estate manages the Conservatee’s finances, protects income and property, pays bills and taxes, invests capital and prepares detailed financial records for the court and other agreed-upon parties.
Conservatorship: A methodical, ongoing process
- The Conservatorship process begins by filing a petition with the court that provides information on why the individual cannot manage his/her financial affairs or make appropriate decisions concerning his/her personal care.
- Once the petition has been filed, a court investigator interviews the proposed Conservatee to determine if the appointment of a Conservator is justified. The investigator reports back to the court on his/her findings. Family and interested parties are notified of the proceedings and may testify in court.
The petition is set for hearing, and the Conservatee must appear in court unless physically unable to do so. Based on the petition, the findings from the investigator’s report, and any evidence taken during the hearing, the judge determines what types of powers the Conservator will be granted.
Continued court supervision
Once the Conservatorship has been granted, a court investigator visits the Conservatee on a regular basis to determine whether the Conservatorship is still necessary, and the Conservator is required to keep careful records and submit reports to the court.