What is a Conservatorship?

April 1, 2021
estate planning

Anyone who faces the possibility of having to care for a family member or friend who is unable to manage their own health care or other personal decisions should understand the difference between a guardianship and conservatorship. When a person is incapacitated due to disability, illness, or injury, a guardian may be appointed by a court to handle the incapacitated person’s medical decisions. Conservators are also appointed by courts but for the primary purpose of managing the incapacitated person’s finances.

How can Someone Become a Conservator?

Guardians can handle the person’s Social Security benefits and other small amounts of money, but for larger amounts, judges usually choose conservators. It is possible to be both a guardian and a conservator at the same time. To become a conservator, the applicant needs to initiate a request with an estate lawyer or probate court. There will be documentation, interviews, and background checks. A hearing will take place, and this is when the decision will be handed down.

There are two types of conservatorships. A conservator of the person involves being responsible for the individual’s care, control, and custody. This includes medical treatment. Conservatorship of an estate means that the conservator managers the conservatee’s financial resources and estate. The conservator will use the income of the estate to maintain the support the conservatee. The conservator will also have to collect the conservatee’s debts and pay them.

How Do Conservatorships Work?

Conservatorships take time and effort and can be expensive. Once initiated, they are subject to supervision by the court, which is important for keeping the incapacitated person’s estate safe from fraud. Conservators usually have to provide ongoing reports about their activities, and many courts will also require conservators to request permission before they make major decisions. Two examples of that would be terminating life support or selling the individual’s home.

Conservators get paid and also receive reimbursement for their expenses, and these funds come from the conservatee’s estate. Courts determine whether or not the payments are reasonable. Although these payments generally go to public or professional conservators, they can also be distributed to family members who are appointed as conservators.

Financial conservators may also have to post bonds, which are a form of insurance that shields the conservatee’s estate from any kind of mismanagement. However, the bond premiums are normally paid out from the conservatee’s assets. These bonds are crucial for safeguarding estates because it is not unheard of for a conservator to make poor decisions about their conservatee’s health care or estate. Every state has its own procedures and rules in place to prevent these kinds of mistakes and frauds.

Responsibilities of the Conservator

Managing the conservatee’s assets also involves the responsibility of seeking out all the coverage and financial benefits that the conservatee might qualify for, such as:

  • Medical insurance benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Social Security
  • Retirement benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Pensions
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Public assistance

Family members, including the conservator, may also have to contribute some of their own funds to help out conservatees. Conservatorships end when the conservatee passes away, if the assets are depleted, if the person does not need the assistance any more, or if the conservator decides to resign. For help with conservatorship matters, one should speak to a lawyer.

Media Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients with Estate Planning and Conservatorships

To see if a conservatorship or guardianship is the best choice for your situation, reach out to an experienced Media estate lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call us 610-565-3701 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.