We know how the road to conservatorships starts for our aging population. Most folks I know have a parent who requires care of some sort. So, mom seems to be okay. Then, you find out that she is not okay. She is being taken advantage of, financially, by one of the myriad of charities geared directly at folks like her. Older adults who are kind, naive, and have available money. Maybe her bills are lapsing or you look in her cupboards are there is an unheard of supply of cream of chicken soup but no milk, vegetables, or toilet paper. Maybe she is missing doctors appointments or maybe you find out how bad things have got when mom falls and requires hospitalization. You step in and realize you may need to consider a conservatorship.
Conservatorships are court proceedings that people often request when an adult cannot take care of themselves or their finances. In this proceeding, you ask the judge to appoint you the conservator to care for your mom, the conservatee.
Are there different types of conservatorships?
There sure are. When you find yourself at the place where mom needs care, there are a few routes to go in the realm of conservatorships.
- General Conservatorship: It is general because this is the first place we think to go when mom has diminished mental capacity. There are two prongs to this conservatorship, a conservatorship of estate and a conservatorship of person. The estate portion allows you, the conservator, to take care of mom’s finances, including paying her bills. The person portion lets you make decisions about housing and food, as well as medical choices. There are times when the court can break apart the conservatorships of estate and those of person. Limited conservatorships like that are often used in other circumstances.
- Temporary Conservatorship: These conservatorships are utilized where there is an immediate need or between the appointment of two general conservators. In a temporary conservatorship, a conservator is not appointed by a judge. Hence, they have some pretty extreme restrictions for your mom’s protection. They can’t move a person out of their home, without good cause. They cannot end a lease. A temporary conservator can’t give an asset away. They can’t sell an asset either.
There are alternatives to conservatorship proceedings, altogether. Prior to mom getting to this point she had other alternatives. If you are not at the point where mom is already diminished she can make plans. As part of her general estate planning, when she drew up or updated her will, she could have created a living trust. Additionally, a power of attorney will often accomplish some of the same things as a conservatorships. Contact your estate and trust attorney to find out all the options in your case.