A conservatorship is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints an individual or entity (the Conservator) to manage the financial, personal, and medical affairs of another person (the Conservatee) who is unable to make decisions for themselves.
Conservatorships are typically 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.
When a conservatorship is established, the conservator assumes the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of the conservatee, ensuring their well-being and managing their assets.
The conservator is legally obligated to act in the conservatee's Best Interests and follow guidelines set by court. Depending upon the state and jurisdiction, these matters may be handled in Probate Court, Surrogate's Court, Guardianship Court, or Conservatorship Court.
If a conservator or conservatee should die during the course of a conservatorship, several different processes are enacted.
Key things to know if the conservatee dies during a conservatorship include:
End of Conservatorship: The conservatorship itself typically ends upon the death of the conservatee. At that point, the conservator's role and responsibilities also come to an end.
Estate Settlement: If the conservatee had Assets, the conservatorship may have been involved in managing those assets during the conservatee's lifetime. After the conservatee's death, the conservatorship's involvement in managing their Estate ends.
Transition to Probate or Heirs: After the death of the conservatee, any assets owned by the conservatee would typically pass to their Heirs or Beneficiaries according to their Last Will and Testament (if they had one) or through the Laws of Intestacy (if they did not have a will).
Executor or Administrator: If the conservatee had a will, the person or entity named as the Executor in the will would be responsible for Administering the Estate and distributing assets according to the will's instructions. If there was no will, Probate Court would appoint an Administrator to handle these tasks.
Final Accounting: The conservator may be required to provide a final accounting of their actions during the conservatorship to the court or to the estate's executor/administrator.
Conversely, if a conservator dies while still serving as the legal guardian or manager of a conservatee's affairs, the situation can become complex, as it introduces a gap in the management of the conservatee's affairs.
Key things to know when a conservator dies during a conservatorship include:
Immediate Actions: Upon the conservator's death, immediate actions may need to be taken to ensure the well-being and safety of the conservatee. If the conservatee is in need of ongoing care, arrangements might need to be made to ensure their health and safety.
Court Involvement: In many cases, conservatorships are court-appointed, and a court oversees the actions of the conservator. Upon the conservator's death, the court will need to be informed about the situation.
Appointment of Successor Conservator: Depending on circumstances, a court might appoint a Successor Conservator to take over the responsibilities of managing the conservatee's affairs. This could be someone the conservatee had previously nominated in their Estate Planning documents, or it could be another suitable individual or institution.
Temporary Management: If there is a delay in appointing a successor conservator, the court might take temporary measures to ensure the conservatee's immediate needs are met. This could involve designating a temporary guardian or conservator until a permanent solution is found.
Assets and Finances: If the conservator was responsible for managing the conservatee's financial affairs, steps may need to be taken to safeguard the conservatee's assets during the transition. This might involve freezing accounts or taking other protective measures.
Reporting to the Court: The successor conservator (or temporary Guardian) would likely need to report to the court on the status of the conservatee, the assets under their care, and any actions taken during the transition.
Legal Process: The process of appointing a new conservator involves legal procedures, including court hearings, assessments of the conservatee's needs, and legal documentation.
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.