Yesterday, I talked about how courts/judges make decisions regarding who might be awarded conservatorship/guardianship. Today, I want to look at the process and what it takes become a conservator or guardian.
Remember the terms conservatorship and guardianship are used interchangeably in some jurisdictions, and in others they have slightly differing meanings and functions. I use the terms interchangebly.
You realize that aunt Ruth cannot take care of herself or her affairs. What now? Here are the steps you should take:
- Call a meeting of close family and friends; specifically, those that might be willing and able to care for Aunt Ruth
- Determine what Aunt Ruth’s needs are.
- Does she have other medical conditions in addition to Alzheimer’s disease? What are her living arrangements? What is the status of her estate? Does she own a home? Does she have other properties? Does she have assets? Is the plan for her to stay at home or move into a long-term care facility?
- Determine who is best able (and willing) to expend the time and energy to care for Aunt Ruth. Because the courts are involved, the conservator is responsible to periodically report to the court and keep fairly detailed records regarding expenses incurred and care provided.
3. Be aware of the scope of responsibility of the conservator/guardian
Below is a statement by the Department of Human Services regarding the duties of a guardian/conservator
What are the duties of a guardian/conservator?
A guardian/conservator must maintain contact with the protected person to become familiar with the protected person’s needs and limitations, and only exercise their decision- making authority to the extent required by those limitations. The guardian/conservator must respect the fact that their relationship with the protected person is a confidential one, and should encourage the person’s participation in decision-making to the extent possible. Obviously, the guardian/conservator must always act in the best interest of the protected person, and never become involved in a situation that might give the appearance of a conflict of interest. Finally, the court does require that the guardian/conservator provide some information to the court, including information pertaining to the protected person’s finances and personal inventory, and an annual personal status report.
The other very real issue to consider is that, because conservatorships require court intervention, they can be costly and quite time consuming.
Finally, families should consider conservatorships as a last resort. Durable Power of Attorney is an easier, less expensive, less time consuming and more “friendly” process. It also enables the person in question to have some say in who will handle their financial and medical affairs.
Are you a conservator or guardian? Share your experience.