WHAT IS A CONSERVATORSHIP?

A Conservatorship is a court controlled legal relationship between a conservatee, the person being conserved because s/he can no longer care for her person and/or her finances and a conservator of the person, of the estate or both, under the guidance of an attorney (for the conservator) and the state and local rules of a Probate Department in a State Superior Court. Loss of control by the conservatee and the family can be very upsetting and the costs of a conservatorship are usually great.  Among other expenses, a conservator of the estate is paid an hourly rate (or a percentage) to manage the conservatee’s financial affairs: pay the bills, do banking, handle taxes, take care of property, insurance and taxes. A conservator of the person may make medical appointments and arrange for transportation to appointments; see to necessary home care and coverage, including meals. Sometimes someone needs only a conservator of the person or a conservator of the estate. The same person may be both conservator of the estate and conservator of the person.

Sometimes a family member, a friend or a partner petitions the Court and is appointed as conservator; often, however, there is no such person available for these numerous tasks, or a court may determine that a professional conservator is needed even where a family member is available if there appears to be any question about that person’s ability, trustworthiness, etc. Sometimes, if families disagree over who should be appointed, the Court will appoint a professional conservator, also called a professional fiduciary. Even if a family member is appointed as a conservator, an attorney for the conservator must still be hired to guide the conservator and report to the court at regular intervals, at an attorney’s hourly rate. When the conservatee is unable to speak for him or herself, the Court will appoint an attorney for the conservatee, at even more expense. The way to avoid this cost and the possible handing over of control of one’s person and assets to a court-appointed conservator and an attorney is very simple: execute a Durable Power of Attorney AND an Advance Health Care Directive.

Even if someone is presently healthy and has capacity to do all these things, something as unexpected (and ordinary) as a fall or sudden illness or a car accident could render a person incapacitated.  Without having appointed an attorney in fact, that person may well end up under a conservatorship.