America continues to age and with age often comes increased incapacity to handle affairs. In those situations where proper planning has not occurred, the Court sometimes has to step in to protect and administer affairs of the person suffering incapacity.
A Conservatorship is a legal process through the Chancery Court in the county of Ward’s residence that decides if the Ward has legal capacity to handle his/her affairs. The Ward is the person whose capacity is questioned.
If a person is adjudged to lack legal capacity, then a Conservatorship is granted. The "Ward" loses control of his/her property and right to handle his/her financial matters and could lose the right to make healthcare decisions.
The process begins when a family member or friend files a Petition stating that a person may be unable to handle his or her affairs. The Petition much inlude certification of two doctors (or a doctor and a psychiatrist) that the person does lack the capacity to handle his or her affairs. The Court sets a date for a hearing, process is served on the Ward and another adult family member and at the hearing evidence is presented to the Judge showing the Ward's lack of capacity to handle his or her affairs. The Court decides whether a Conservator will be appointed and, if so, who that will be.
A Conservatorship protects the Ward’s property by requiring the Conservator to make an annual accounting to the Court at the expense of the Ward’s estate. The Conservatorship continues until the Ward improves or dies and must be terminated by Order of the Court. In some situations, the expense and difficulty of a Conservatorship may be eliminated through proper planning.
A Conservatorship and Guardianship are somewhat similar and follow some of the same statutes. Generally, a Conservatorship is for an older person to conserve the estate. A Guardianship is generally for younger people, usually minors or disabled persons, and guards the assets of the Ward.
The Elder Law Firm uses a Conservatorship as a last resort to protect assets. The preference is always to work with honest family members who are looking out for the best interest of their loved ones.