Life isn't always convenient or fair, and sometimes things happen that throw all of our plans off track. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to think ahead and make plans to protect your loved ones even in unexpected situations. It might not be the most comfortable thought to have, but taking steps to protect your property and your family in the event of your death or incapacitation is just as important as going to work every day to ensure that you can take care of their basic needs. With that in mind, it is a good idea to consider who you might appoint as a conservator should one be needed.
WHAT IS A CONSERVATOR?
A conservator is, to put it simply, someone who has been appointed by the court system to take care of the property someone who is either incapacitated or a minor. This is often seen in cases where a minor's parents have passed. Because a minor cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of the legal system and aren't eligible to make certain decisions until they reach the age of majority, it is necessary to appoint a conservator to take care of the property they inherit. The same idea holds true in the case of incapacitated adults. Should an adult be found to be unable to manage their own estate and make their own decisions regarding financial matters, a conservator can be appointed to take care of the estate in their stead.
CONSERVATOR VS. GUARDIAN
The terms “conservator” and “guardian” are often used interchangeably, however they do have a distinct difference from one another. A conservator is someone who manages an estate – they take care of property, in other words, not a person. A guardian, on the other hand, is responsible for the well-being of a person. And while the same individual can sometimes serve as both guardian and conservator, it is important to understand the differences between the two.
WHAT COUNTS AS “INCAPACITATION”?
When it comes to appointing conservators for adults, the question regarding what exactly constitutes “incapacitation” often comes up. There are a variety of factors that can influence this determination. In general, an adult is considered incapacitated if they are unable to manage business and property affairs due to any of the following:
- Mental Illness
- Physical Illness
- Mental Deficiency
- Chronic Use of Drugs
- Chronic Intoxication
- Infirmities of Advanced Age
- Detention by Foreign Powers
If an individual suffers from any of the above to the extend that they are no longer able to properly care for their business affairs or their property, they could be found legally incapacitated by a court and a conservator could be appointed to take control of their estate. Note again that this is not the same thing as appointing a guardian to care for the well-being of the incapacitated individual.
WHO CAN BE A CONSERVATOR?
A wide variety of individuals can become a conservator. This includes family members as well as individuals unrelated to the person in question. This includes:
- Adult Child
- Relative of the Ward
- Individual Designated by the Incapacitated Person's Power of Attorney
For more information regarding conservatorship and how you can go about ensuring that you have your affairs in order (or to attempt to take control of affairs for someone who is incapacitated), contact contact Sara Doty, Attorney at Law, LLC, today! Call us for an initial consultation at 256-519-9970.