When we age, it becomes difficult to look after our own financial best interests. That’s why the government recognizes the practice of conservatorships or appointing a responsible adult to manage personal and financial matters for a person (a conservatee) who has become impaired in their ability to effectively manage their own finances or affairs.
If you have an elderly parent or another loved one who is unable to handle their finances, it might be time to look into a conservatorship on their behalf. But what does it mean to become a conservator, and what are the steps to requesting it? At Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C., we can help you determine whether a conservatorship is needed and the steps to appointing yourself or an independent third party to act as Conservator.
What Is a Conservatorship, and When Should I Consider It?
Simply put, a conservator can manage financial matters on behalf of an individual, such as paying bills or operating their businesses. Unlike a guardianship, a person’s civil liberties are not affected in a conservatorship; only their property rights. According to the Colorado Bar Association, becoming a conservator requires that you meet an extremely high standard of fiduciary care, and that you act in the conservatees’ best interest at all times. Family members can serve as conservators, but there are also third-party professionals that can be appointed to act as conservator. The downside to appointing a third-party professional is that they are often more expensive than a family member, but sometimes in high conflict situations it is better to appoint a neutral third-party, if the conservatee’s finances allow.
When you request this kind of arrangement, you must establish that the proposed conservatee is unable to manage property and business affairs because he or she is unable to effectively receive and evaluate information or both or to make or communicate decisions. This can be for any number of reasons: from illnesses like Alzheimer’s to brain injuries after serious car accidents, your loved one may become mentally unable to process even minor financial decisions or purchases. In other instances, aging may have been responsible for their mental deterioration, as in the case of a parent or grandparent. Or sometimes the elderly become victims of financial abuse and need a third party to manage their money because they are unable to say no to gifting or are unaware of how much disposable income they can safely spend on a monthly basis.
A Conservator, once appointed by the Court, is responsible for managing the finances of the protected person. The Conservator can access bank accounts and financial institutions to ensure bills are paid on time and the conservatee’s needs are adequately met. Once appointed, the first task of a Conservator is to file a financial plan with the Court, within 90 days of appointment. The financial plan is based on the income and projected expenses of the protected person, the needs of the protected person, and how the plan will ensure the needs of the protected person are met. A Conservator is also required to file an inventory with the Court within 90 days from the date of the appointment. Thereafter, the Conservator is responsible for filing yearly accountings which accounts for any income and disbursements to the protected person. The Inventory, financial plan, and yearly accountings are detailed documents that must adequately reflect the protected person income, assets and expenses.
Steps to Conservatorship in Colorado
If you believe a conservatorship could be the right option for your loved one, you will need to submit a petition with the probate court. The Petition must allege the reasons you believe a conservatorship is necessary and why the individuals needs cannot be met through less restrictive means. You will also want to provide the Court with a doctor’s letter that supports the appointment of a conservator. Generally, but not always, when a conservatorship is requested, a Guardianship is necessary also. To appoint a Guardian as well a separate petition is required to be filed with the Court. The Court will then set the matter for a hearing and will appoint a Court visitor to conduct interviews of the individual and the proposed conservator before the hearing date. The proposed conservator, if they are not a third-party professional, must submit a background check and a credit check to the Court and are required to view materials regarding their appointment as conservator prior to a court order permitting their appointment. At the Court hearing, the Court will determine if a conservatorship is necessary and will issue an order appointing a conservator if appropriate.
Getting a conservatorship or a guardianship can be exceptionally complicated, so it’s critical you review all the details with a seasoned elder law attorney to ensure everything is in order. At Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C., our Longmont elder law attorneys can help you determine if there are any obstacles to your conservatorship case. Contact us today at 303-678-0560for a free consultation.