If a court appoints someone to take care of financial matters, that person is called a “conservator of the estate.”
A person in charge of medical and personal decisions is a “conservator of the person.”
An incapacitated person may need just one type of representative, or both. The same person can be appointed to take both jobs. Both types of conservators are supervised by and held accountable to a court.
Conservatorships are established for people who are in comas, suffer from dementia, or have other serious illnesses or injuries.
Conservatorships are time-consuming and expensive. They often require court hearings and the ongoing assistance of a lawyer. The paperwork is complicated because the conservator must keep detailed records and file court papers on a regular basis. All court proceedings and documents are a matter of public record.
Conservators are subject to court supervision, which provides a powerful safeguard for an incapacitated adult’s property. To prevent conservators from mismanaging the property or otherwise taking advantage of the people they are helping, courts require conservators to provide periodic reports detailing their actions. Courts also require the conservator to seek permission before making major decisions, such as selling real estate (for a financial conservator) or terminating life-support (for a conservator in charge of health care decisions).
It is not unusual for the person to resist the appointment of a conservator. Sometimes contested conservatorship proceedings can be some of the most painful actions in probate court.
Conservators are reimbursed for expenses, and paid for their services, from the assets of the person they are taking care of. Payments must be “reasonable” in the eyes of a court.
A conservatorship is both invasive and expensive. The best way for someone to avoid a conservatorship is to prepare durable powers of attorney before a health crisis occurs. That way, someone handpicked will be able to step in to make financial and medical decisions if necessary.
To learn more about guardianships, call us at 949-756-0684 for a free consultation in either our Irvine or Long Beach office.