When an elderly relative, or dependent adult, becomes physically or mentally unable to take care of his or her own needs, it may be an appropriate time for a family member or guardian to establish conservatorship. Oakland County lawyers who deal with elder law can establish conservatorship by preparing the petition and then filing it with the court, along with any other necessary documentation. The dependent person becomes known as the “conservatee” and the person seeking the court’s authority is the “conservator.”
Different Types of Conservatorship
According to Oakland County lawyers, there are two types of conservatorship:
1. Over the person – when the elder can no longer take care of his or her personal needs, including shelter, clothing and food.
2. Over the “estate” – this is when the elder can no longer make financial decisions, or resist undue influence or fraud.
The client and lawyer will start by determining whether there are any alternatives so the same goals can be achieved, but without needing formal conservatorship. Two such options include powers of attorney and trusts.
Trusts and Power of Attorney
If the elder has previously established a revocable trust, that trust will name a “successor trustee,” a person who has the authority to manage the elder’s assets when he or she is no longer able to do so. In a similar sense, if the powers of attorney for healthcare and finance decision making are in place, then the elder’s “agent” has the authority to handle those responsibilities. In these instances, there is no need to seek conservatorship since the authority is already in place.
There are times, though, when both powers of attorney and trusts are in place, but it’s still necessary to establish a conservatorship. The appointed “agent” under the power of attorney for finances, or the “successor trustee” of the trust could well be stealing money from the elder. This has to be ceased, and Oakland County lawyers can help establish a conservatorship and even an “elder abuse civil litigation” case if one is warranted to recover money or properties that have been wrongfully taken.
Once the conservatorship has been established, the court will monitor the appointed person’s actions. The conservator has to file periodic accountings with the court and inform the judge of everything received and spent. A conservator can petition the court to be reimbursed reasonable fees for his or her work. Fees often include out-of-pocket costs and attorney fees.
Most of the work to seek conservatorship occurs at the beginning of a case and then starts to simmer down once the mechanics are set in place, such as the conservatee’s bills being paid, their medical care sorted out, and any residency issues dealt with.
Once again, alternatives to a conservator should be considered first, but when necessary, it can provide senior citizens with much needed assistance to ensure they maintain as much independence and dignity as is possible.
Talking to Oakland County Lawyers
Making the decision to file for a conservatorship is not an easy one, but anyone considering it as a viable options has a wealth of resources at his or her disposal. Speaking to Oakland County Lawyers before proceeding can provide peace of mind and direction as to the next steps that should be taken for a successful ruling.