What Is A Conservator?
A conservator is an individual who is appointed by the court to handle the personal care and/or financial affairs of another individual (the “conservatee”).
When Will A Conservator Be Needed?
Most “estate plans” include Power of Attorney designations for both medical and financial decision-making purposes. In the majority of cases, if properly drafted Power of Attorney documents are in place, a conservatorship will not be necessary.
If effective Power of Attorney documents are not in place, a conservatorship will be needed at the point when an individual becomes unable to continue making his or her own medical and/or financial decisions. For example, individuals with advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia often require a conservatorship.
Sometimes, establishment of a conservatorship will be necessary even when Power of Attorney documents are in place. This will be the case if the agent acting under the Power of Attorney fails to care for the individual or misappropriates the individual’s finances. In such situations, family members or friends of the disabled individual may wish to bring an action to remove the agent designated under the Power of Attorney and seek his/her replacement with a conservator.
Benefits of a Conservatorship
Conservatorships can be expensive and time-consuming and often require the assistance of at least one attorney.
That being said, conservatorships are important and should be used to protect individuals who can no longer care for themselves or handle their own financial matters.
One of the primary benefits of a conservatorship – as compared to a private agency established under a Power of Attorney document – is third-party accountability.
Conservators must provide full accountings to the court for the transactions entered by the conservator on a bi-annual basis. Though there is a cost associated with this accountability, there are many cases in which the benefit of accountability is worth the expense.