Sometimes an illness, injury, aging, or other disability can make it difficult or impossible for a person to make decisions for themselves regarding healthcare, money, or other personal matters. This may be the case for someone
If you have created a comprehensive Modern Estate Plan you already have the legal tools you need – Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive – to allow someone else to make decisions for you.
However, once a person no longer has the ability to make their own decisions, it is too late to put in place those key legal tools, and a court ordered conservatorship will be necessary.
A conservatorship, or “living probate,” is a court proceeding meant to protect a person who cannot care for themselves or their finances/property. There are two types of conservators, and a person may need one or both types:
The process starts with a petition that asks the court to appoint a “conservator” to make decisions for the “conservatee” and act on the conservatee’s behalf and in their best interest. As part of the process the court conducts an investigation to determine if the conservatorship is necessary and whether the proposed consesrvator is appropriate. Once the conservatorship is approved by the court, the conservator then has the legal authority to step into the conservatee’s shoes and make decisions for them. The conservator must report to the court periodically until the conservatorship is ended.
While this may seem like a simple process, there are many legal hurdles that must be addressed and it may be necessary for the court to appoint an attorney for the proposed conservatee. The effect of the conservatorship is to take away many of your personal rights, which may include your driver’s license or professional licenses and the right to vote. The process is time consuming, taking upwards of 4-6 months to complete, and expensive. Your family will pay thousands of dollars from your estate to pay for the conservatorship.
Because conservatorship is very burdensome, and should be a last resort, we will do our best to determine if other alternatives are available. Becoming a conservator can be a stressful process, but we do our best to make it as easy as possible.