When a love one is no longer able to make financial decisions on his or her own—due to age, mental health, or disability—a conservatorship may be the best solution.
According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch website, “A conservator is appointed to make financial decisions for the protected person (“Conservatee”.) The conservator typically has the power to enter into contracts, pay bills, invest assets, and perform other financial functions for the protected person.”
If you are the child, sibling, parent, or close friend of an individual who is no longer able to maintain his or her financial obligations because of an illness or injury, you’ll likely have many questions on how to file and obtain conservatorship.
Below are the answers to three commonly asked questions you may have:
Why Would I Need to File a Conservatorship?
There are many reasons why a person may decide to file for conservatorship to protect a loved one in need of support. For example, if a friend or loved one recently experienced a head injury, stroke, or is beginning to show signs of dementia, the individual may no longer have the mental capacity to make financial decisions that could impact his or her investments, savings, and estate. There are other scenarios for why you may need to file a conservatorship, such as your loved one is in a coma or has a mental disability. Regardless of the reason, when an individual is deemed “incapacitated”, it’s important to take the necessary next step to ensure your loved one’s finances are protected.
How Do I File for a Conservatorship?
To be legally named an individual’s conservator, you’ll need a court order. The first step to obtaining one is filing a petition with a probate court and submitting the required documentation.
According to The Minnesota Association for Guardianship & Conservatorship, “A person is appointed guardian/conservator by the probate court after a court hearing on a petition which alleges that the respondent is an incapacitated person and in need of a guardian and/or that the person is unable to manage their estate, and in need of a conservator.”
A hearing is scheduled a few weeks after the petition is filed. And if the court deems that a conservator is needed to support the individual, and you—the person nominated to serve as conservator—have demonstrated that you’re the most qualified and best suited individual to serve in this role, the court will appoint the nomination.
Is a Conservatorship the Same as a Guardianship?
It’s important to note that while a conservatorship and guardianship may share similarities, there are subtle differences. “A guardian is appointed by the court to make the personal decisions for the protected person (“Ward”.) The guardian has authority to make decisions on behalf of the protected person about such things as where to live, medical decisions, training and education, etc.” (Minnesota Judicial Branch website). The choice between the two will depend on the situation. For example, if your loved one is living with a disability, and he or she has no assets or income, the individual will need support in making medical decisions vs. financial decisions. There may be situations where an individual is in need of both a conservator and a guardian, and sometimes, this can be two different people or one person. Again, it will depend on each individual situation.
Filing for conservatorship (or guardianship) is an important step to helping your loved one or friend receive the support they need. The process can be both confusing and emotionally stressful, which is why it’s important that you have an experienced attorney there to help draft the petition, complete and submit the required documentation, and be your advocate during the court hearing. KTF Law Firm is here to help! We encourage you to schedule a free consultation and let us help you understand and identify next steps to ensure you and your loved one receive the results you both deserve!