Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grasping the Concept of a Conservatorship

As people begin to age, practical issues begin to rear their head that nobody really contemplated before hand. Specifically, the ability of the senior to make financial or health decisions can become questionable and a conservatorship might be needed.

There is little doubt that we begin to slow down as we age. This is true for both our physical and mental capabilities. This is never more so the case then when people start to get into their sixties and older. The memory starts to go. The mind starts to slow down. If things start to degrade quickly, the issue of whether a senior has the capacity to make decisions for themselves can lead to a conservatorship hearing.

What is a conservatorship? It is the appointment of a third person to handle decisions for the individual in question. The decisions can be related to medical care, financial issues or both. The conservatorship is created by a judge during a court hearing. The conservator is often a family member, but the court can select a third party trustee or separate individual to handle the issues surrounding the impacted person.

So, what does the conservator actually do? For health decisions, the conservator is the person authorized to give informed consent to medical procedures such as surgeries. For financial decisions, the conservator takes over the person's bank account, investment accounts and so on.

The conservator is not given free reign over the life of the individual being evaluated by the court. Instead, the conservator has a duty to make decisions in a manner that reflects the best interests of the person in question. The specific ramifications of how this plays out is determined state by state as conservatorship law is controlled at the state level and each has a slightly different way of going about it.

So, what keeps the conservator from "playing funny" with the money and such? The court will assign a second person, usually an attorney, to oversee the decisions being made by the conservator. If the conservator starts taking action that looks contrary to the best interests of the individual in question, the overseeing party can alert the court.

There is no secret we have a bulge in our population known as the baby boomers. As that bulge moves into their senior years, conservatorships will become more and more common. If you have a senior adult in your life, make sure you understand the basic concept and what you might be required to get into.

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