Conservatorships

 

 

Conservatorships – Frequently asked questions:

 

What is a conservatorship?
It is a legal relationship where one adult assumes responsibility for the care of another adult who needs help. A conservatorship can be set up after a judge decides that a person (called the “Conservatee”) can’t take care of themselves or their finances. Then the judge chooses another person or organization (called the “Conservator”) to be Conservator of the Person and in charge of the Conservatee’s care [of the physical body] and may appoint a Conservator of the Estate for finances [of the assets/money], or have the same person for both.

What does it mean to be a Conservator of the Person?
When the court chooses you as the conservator of a person, this means you:

  • Arrange for the conservatee’s care and protection;
  • Decide where the conservatee will live; and
  • Are in charge of:
    • health care,
    • food,
    • clothes, personal care,
    • housekeeping, transportation, and
    • recreation.
  • Figure out what the conservatee needs:
  • Figure out what the conservatee needs and how to meet those needs.
  • Decide where the conservatee will live
    • You can decide where the conservatee will live. But you must choose the least restrictive place. It has to be appropriate, safe, and comfortable for the conservatee.
      And it has to let the conservatee be as independent as possible
    • You must tell the court every time the conservatee’s address changes
    • You can’t move the conservatee out of state
    • You can’t put the conservatee in a mental health treatment facility. You may be able to put the conservatee in a special residential care facility with a secure fence around the property if the conservatee has dementia and the court agrees with you. But you have to make sure the facility:
      • Is appropriate,
      • Meets the conservatee’s special needs, and
      • Is not more restrictive than necessary.
  • Get health care for the conservatee:
    • You are responsible for making sure that the conservatee’s health-care needs are taken care of.
    • You can’t give or deny consent for medical treatment if the conservatee doesn’t agree, unless the court gives you that exclusive right
    • If the court gives you the power to approve the use of certain very strong medications to treat dementia, make sure the doctors try other, less intrusive treatments first.
  • Work with the conservator of the estate: If someone else is handling the conservatee’s finances, that person is the “conservator of the estate.” You must work together to make sure the conservatee can pay for the care you arrange. The conservator of the estate must approve what you buy for the conservatee, or you may not get your money back.

What does it mean to be Conservator of the Estate?
The money and property the conservatee owns are called the conservatee’s “estate.” You are a Fiduciary and must manage the estate for the benefit of the Conservatee and engage in no self-dealing or treating the assets as your own. When the court chooses you to be the conservator of an estate, you will:

  • Manage the conservatee’s finances;
  • Protect the conservatee’s income and property;
  • Make a list of everything in the estate;
  • Make a plan to make sure the conservatee’s needs are met;
  • Make sure the conservatee’s bills are paid;
  • Invest the conservatee’s money;
  • Make sure the conservatee gets all the benefits he or she is eligible for;
  • Make sure the conservatee’s taxes are filed and paid on time;
  • Keep exact financial records; and
  • Make regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and other interested persons.

There are a lot of other limits on how you can handle the estate’s property. Unless you have a court order,
you can’t:

  • Pay yourself or your lawyer with the estate’s money;
  • Give away any part of the estate; or
  • Borrow money from the estate.
  • If you don’t get permission from the court when you have to, you may have to pay back the estate from your own money and you may be removed as conservator.

Inventory of estate property

If you’re chosen to be conservator of an estate, you must make and keep a list of what the estate owns. To do this, you need to:

  1. Find the estate’s property. You must find, get, and protect all the money and property the conservatee owns. Put the personal property into your name as conservator of the estate. For real estate, file a copy of your Letters of Conservatorship with the county recorder in every county where the conservatee owns real estate. Click here to find the recorder in your county.
  2. Determine the value of the property. You must get a court-appointed referee to figure out how much the estate’s noncash property is worth. But you, not the referee, have to figure out how much the “cash items” are worth. Talk to a lawyer about how to do this.
  3. File an inventory and appraisal. You must file an inventory and appraisal describing the conservatee’s property and showing its value when you became conservator. This is due no more than 90 days after you become conservator.
  4. Maintain insurance. Make sure there is enough insurance to cover the property of the estate. Also, make sure it’s the right kind of insurance. Keep the insurance in effect for each property for the whole time that you manage property as conservator.

Record keeping and accounting

Records. You must keep complete, exact records of every financial transaction that has to do with the estate. Use the checkbook for the conservatorship checking account to keep records of the money that comes in and the expenses you pay. A year after you become conservator, you must file a petition to ask the court to approve your accounting. After that, you must do this again every 2 years. Save your receipts. The court may want to see them.

If you don’t file your accounting, the court will order you to file it and you may be removed as conservator.

If you have questions about being the conservator of an estate, please give me a call. I am here to help.

CALL:
925.362.1010

E-MAIL:
elizabeth@johnsonestateplanning.com

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