If a loved becomes unable to take care of themselves due to physical or mental illness or disability, there may arise the need to seek a conservatorship for that individual. While no one wants to forcibly step in and take control of another person’s affairs, however, if someone is unable to make appropriate decisions or recognize their challenges, it is often the best move to take action and protect them from financial loss or physical harm. You do not have the legal right to simply take over their affairs without permission, as laws set out strict procedures to establish a conservatorship.
Conservators do not have the unchecked ability to simply handle an incapacitated individual’s matters any way they so choose. Instead, along with their decision-making powers comes certain legal duties, as well.
Powers and Duties
The powers of a conservator depend on the type of conservatorship that exists. For example:
- Conservator of the person: Has the ability to make decisions regarding where the person lives and how their basic needs such as clothing and food are met. Many conservators make highly important decisions regarding what medical care the person does or does not receive.
- Conservator of the estate: Has the power to make financial and legal decisions, collect the person’s income, pay bills and taxes, decide how else the money is spent or invested, make business decisions if applicable, and more.
- In some cases, if an adult is not completely incapacitated but simply has a developmental disability, a court may establish a limited conservatorship with fewer powers than a general conservator would have.
In addition to the above powers, conservators further have the legal responsibility to the incapacitated person. Some such duties are as follows:
- Conservator of the person: To ensure that the person is protected and well cared-for and that all decisions made regarding meals, living arrangements, personal care, medical care, and more are in their best interests and made with their well-being carefully in mind.
- Conservator of the estate: State laws require that every conservator of the estate have a fiduciary duty to the incapacitated person. This means the conservator cannot act in a self-serving manner and must take care in making financial decisions solely based on the person’s best interests.
If a conservator fails to abide by these duties, they may face legal liability.
Consult with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer
An estate attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ can understand that establishing a conservatorship for a loved one is never an easy step to take. They also know that being a conservator can be an intimidating prospect as you are charged with many decisions that are often under close watch by other family members. If you have any questions, call a law office to set up a confidential consultation with a seasoned estate planning attorney and find out how a law firm can help your family.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and duties of a conservator.