What are they and reasons you should plan to avoid them!
Guardianship and conservatorship are two probate court procedures by which a person is appointed by the court to make decisions for another. In guardianships, the guardian makes personal and medical decisions for someone who is found unable to make their own decisions.
In conservatorships, the court appoints someone to manage another person’s financial affairs. This can be in the case when someone is found unable to manage their own finances, or when someone seeks assistance because they are unable to do so themselves, due to their physical condition or advanced age.
When a petition for appointment of a guardian or conservator is filed, the court sets the matter for hearing, and appoints someone, usually an independent attorney, as a guardian ad litem (“GAL”), to visit the proposed ward, and speak with the proposed ward’s family members and care providers.
The GAL is responsible for analyzing the petition and circumstances, so that he or she can make a recommendation to the judge regarding whether the proposed ward meets the requirements for a guardian and/or conservator, whether the proposed ward objects to the petition, and whether the person seeking to be appointed is suitable for such a role.
Can you guess who the GAL charges for his or her time in completing this work? YOU! Many people are surprised to get a bill from the GAL after this initial process, and even attempt to get out of paying the GAL’s bill on the basis that they did not hire the GAL.
However, there is a specific law that says the GAL is entitled to be paid from the ward’s assets, as the service he or she has provided is a benefit to the ward.
Once a guardian or conservator has been appointed, the ward’s personal and financial life come under the review and control of the probate court. The guardian or conservator will be required to make regular reports to the court on the ward’s care/progress, how the guardian or conservator has been managing the affairs of the ward, and any significant decisions impacting the ward.
Some decisions will be brought before the court for a ruling, such as large purchases and, in some cases, moving the ward. When there are family disputes over the ward’s care or finances, more of these decisions will end up being fought about in open court with the ultimate decision being left to the judge.
We will discuss more about disputes in guardianships and conservatorships, along with how to avoid needing either of these procedures, in upcoming issues. In the meantime, feel free to contact us to learn more about keeping your personal and financial business private and outside of the probate court!