A conservator is a person or entity appointed by a court to act as a legal guardian and decision-maker for a person who is unable to manage their own personal, financial, or medical affairs due to incapacity. The person being looked after is known as a Conservatee.
A conservator's role is to ensure that the conservatee's needs are met, their interests are protected, and their affairs are properly managed in accordance with the law and the court's directives.
The legal arrangement that arranges this type of relationship is known as a Conservatorship, which is established when a person is no longer able to handle their own affairs due to factors such as advanced age, cognitive decline, mental illness, or physical incapacitation.
The specific laws and procedures related to conservatees and conservatorships vary by state, but in general, they are established to ensure the well-being and protection of individuals who are unable to manage their own affairs due to incapacity.
Key points about a conservator include:
Legal Appointment: A conservator is appointed through a legal process, often initiated by a concerned family member, friend, or other interested party. A court assesses the evidence and determines whether a conservatorship is necessary.
Responsibilities: The primary responsibility of a conservator is to make decisions on behalf of the conservatee, acting in their Best Interests. This can include decisions related to medical care, living arrangements, financial matters, and more.
Limited Autonomy: While a conservator's decisions are legally binding, they are expected to involve the conservatee in decisions to the extent possible and take into account the conservatee's preferences and values.
Court Oversight: The court oversees the conservator's actions to ensure that they are acting in the conservatee's best interests and complying with legal requirements.
Reporting and Accountability: A conservator is often required to submit regular reports to the court detailing the decisions made and actions taken on behalf of the conservatee.
Qualifications: The court typically considers the suitability and qualifications of potential conservators. Family members, friends, professionals, or specialized organizations can serve as conservators.
Fiduciary Duty: Conservators have a Fiduciary duty to act in the conservatee's best interests and manage their affairs with the utmost care and honesty.
Termination of Conservatorship: If the conservatee's condition improves or changes, the court may reassess the need for the conservatorship and, if appropriate, terminate it.
Types of conservators:
There are typically two main types of conservators, each with distinct responsibilities based on the areas they are authorized to manage on behalf of the conservatee.
The specific names and roles of these conservator types can vary by jurisdiction, but their general functions remain consistent:
Conservator of the Person (Personal Conservator):
This type of conservator is responsible for making decisions related to the personal care, well-being, and medical needs of the conservatee. Their duties may include:
Healthcare: Making medical decisions, arranging for medical treatments, and ensuring the conservatee's physical well-being.
Living Arrangements: Determining where the conservatee will live and ensuring their living conditions are appropriate.
Basic Needs: Ensuring the conservatee's basic needs such as food, clothing, and personal care are met.
Social and Emotional Well-being: Addressing the conservatee's social and emotional needs and facilitating social activities if possible.
Conservator of the Estate (Financial Conservator):
This type of conservator is responsible for managing the conservatee's financial affairs and assets. Their duties may include:
Managing Finances: Overseeing the conservatee's financial accounts, investments, and assets.
Paying Bills: Ensuring that the conservatee's bills, taxes, and financial obligations are paid on time.
Budgeting: Creating and maintaining a budget to manage the conservatee's financial resources.
Protecting Assets: Safeguarding the conservatee's assets from financial abuse and fraud.
Making Financial Decisions: Making decisions about the conservatee's financial matters in their best interests.
In some cases, a single conservator may fulfill both the role of the person and the estate conservator, taking on the responsibility for both personal care and financial management. The court's decision on the type of conservatorship and the specific powers granted will depend on the conservatee's needs and circumstances.
When handling the administration of a conservatorship or the settlement of an estate after the death of a conservator or conservatee, it's important to consult with an Elder Law Attorney, Estate Attorney, Probate Attorney, Guardianship Attorney, or Family Law Attorney.