When you are going through the process of estate planning, you’ll become quickly aware of the variety of options available to you. The court system has made it possible to have complete control and flexibility over your future planning, which can be confirmed and solidified by a qualified estate attorney. While you consider your options, you’ve likely seen or heard of a conservatorship. In this post, we’ll be covering what a conservatorship is, its benefits and limitations, as well as instances in when it is the most appropriate form of estate planning.
A conservatorship is something that is not necessarily just another form of estate planning. Entering a conservatorship allows another competent adult to maintain, care for, and otherwise exert legal authority over another adult. This is a type of legal guardianship and should be used under the careful consultation of an attorney, a medical professional, or a financial or estate planning representative. Because this is legally binding and exudes a higher scope of control over the individual than you would see with other forms of future planning, it is important to be extremely careful and knowledgeable when you enter a state of conservatorship.
Within the structure of a conservatorship, users and members have the ability to tailor it to their needs. Families may choose to seek a limited conservatorship, which does not include the full locus of control that a full conservatorship would allow. Conservatorships are designed only for legal adults, and cannot be applied to minors. Minors would have this completed under a different legal application, which would be called a guardianship. The concepts, however, are still the same.
Conservatorships can be either short-term, temporary, or permanent, and allow for a greater spectrum of service to those with more complex or nuanced needs. You can work with a legal or health professional to determine which would be the most appropriate option in your case.
Below is a list of additional types of conservatorships that you can use:
- Physical: This type of conservatorship offers someone else guardianship and control over personal health decisions. This is most commonly seen in cases with elderly individuals and can allow someone else to determine what type of living situation would offer them the most benefit given their physical limitations.
- Financial: This allows someone else to have complete control over an individual’s financial resources, as well as assets or any type of investments that they may have associated with their names.
- General: This allows both physical and financial guardianship and control over the individual, and is rarer to see. While this is appropriate in some cases, it does remove autonomy from the individual, which is why more limited options are generally considered first.
- Limited: This type of conservatorship allows users to have the most choice and autonomy out of the available options, and is one of the most common types of conservatorships that the courts see come through. You are able to pick and choose applicable facets of the person’s life that would be covered by conservatorship, and would not be bound completely by any type of complete or total guardianship.
There are many types of situations in which a conservatorship may be the most appropriate course of action. Often, conservatorships are sought in cases of mental illness or incapacitation. There are also differing levels of mental disability or health compromises that the court may recognize as deserving of a partial or total conservatorship, such as in the case of coma, or a neurologically compromising disorder such as Alzheimer’s.
After you determine which type of conservatorship you plan to ask for, you can speak to your attorney to begin the paperwork process. You may not implement any form of conservatorship without court approval, or you risk additional legal complications. Because of this, your attorney can be a strong asset to you to ensure that no steps are missed and that the preferences and interests of both the patient and yourself are protected throughout the process.
Your case will be reviewed by your local probate court and must receive a full hearing and process via a judge or magistrate of the court. While you prepare for your court date, you can use this time to gather any necessary medical or legal paperwork, proof, diagnosis, or any other type of documents that are deemed outstanding in order to better support your case.
Short-term conservatorships are rare and can provide different levels of legal difficulty when trying to secure them. It is always good to plan ahead wherever possible and let your attorney know if you or a loved one is considering a possible conservatorship. This can be an element of your estate plan on a contingency basis and can be pre-planned and legally approved before the time comes where it is needed. For more information about your legal rights and conservatorships, you can reach our specialists at (801) 432-8682. We are happy to help!