While there is no doubt that few people enjoy thinking about tragic life events such as death or incapacity, there comes a point in time when it is essential to discuss adult guardianship with your parents or loved ones. Legally speaking, every adult is capable of making their own decisions until a court has lawfully determined that they lack the ability to do so, at which point the option of establishing a conservatorship or adult guardianship, whichever name you prefer, become highly valuable.
Firstly, it’s important to fully understand how the classification system works when it comes to incapacity. Generally speaking, a person is deemed to be in need of an adult guardianship when he or she shows an incapacity to make responsible decisions. It’s important to note that a person may not be deemed incapacitated simply due to them making foolish or irresponsible decisions; the term strictly applies to those who lack the capability of making sound and reasonable decisions regarding their health, finances and other high-stakes areas. While some incapacitated individuals may be capable of making responsible decisions in certain areas of their lives, in which a conservator would only be able to make decisions in areas excluding those controlled by the individual in questions, most incapacitated people require a capable and usually closely acquainted person to handle the decision-making.
A conservator is an individual who has court-ordered authorization to manage the affairs of someone who is no longer capable of making decisions regarding his or her finances and health care. An incapacitated person may need representation for matters relating to finances or health, and the same conservator is eligible to manage both jobs. A conservator must be appointed by a competent adult, perhaps a spouse or other family member, and will be court-supervised which provides a layer of security for the incapacitated person’s health and property. To make sure conservators are acting in the person’s best interest, most courts require conservators to provide reports on a periodic basis outlining their actions. In some cases, courts have the authority to require the conservator to seek permission before making major financial decisions, such as selling a property or terminating life-support. To appoint a conservator, a petition must be filed to the court, which will include an evaluation from a physician or psychologist stating that the person requires a conservator/guardian. A licensed attorney is recommended to file a petition for the hearing in a probate court in the person’s county. At the hearing, the judge will determine if the person is indeed incapacitated and to what extent the individual needs aid. The court gives priority to those who play a significant role in the person’s life, and if two individuals want to share guardianship duties, they can be named as co-guardians.
It is vital to understand the rights that the conservator will be taking over. The conservator will now have the right to conduct business transactions, modify contracts, purchase property, and even revoke any revocable trusts. In most cases, the conservatorship will continue until the person passes away.
While incapacity is certainly a traumatic event to experience, it’s important to know that all hope is not lost when considering financial and medical decisions on behalf of said incapacitated individual. A conservatorship or adult guardianship is a great way to make sure that a trusted appointee can make the best decisions possible for a loved one who is not capable of making them for him or herself.