Financial and estate planning with an estate planning attorney in Southlake is important, especially as one age. As life is unpredictable, it is best to prepare. Unfortunately, many do find themselves unprepared for life-altering events, like ending up in a coma or experiencing the onset of a serious illness. When someone has not previously set up a legally sound plan in regards to their finances and health care, becoming incapacitated often forces their loved ones to make difficult decisions. There may be no living trust, nor any individual indicated in documents as having been appointed power of attorney, which happens quite often. The remaining loved ones then have to petition court proceedings, with the support of a probate attorney in Southlake, to choose someone to be a guardian conservator.
Technically, there are two types of conservators: the estate (finances) and those of the person who handles personal and medical decisions. Some cases only call for one or the other, while many require both, a position that can be held by one individual. Whatever the case, all conservatorships are overseen by the court, and those in these sensitive positions are held accountable by the same legal entity.
Establishing a Conservator
When an individual has not set up proper legal processes ahead of time, as with the assistance of will and trust services in Southlake, a conservatorship petition must be submitted to the court by loved ones or a public official. Essentially, the document must clearly lay out the state of the individual’s inability to make financial or personal care decisions for themselves. Then, an investigator from the court interview’s the individual in question and forms an expert opinion on whether a conservator is truly needed. Once a hearing is scheduled, those with intimate knowledge of the individual’s incapacitation are also able to testify. During this hearing, the potential conservatee is required to attend unless their medical condition prohibits it. Given all the above, the judge finally determines if a conservator is needed, who it should be, and whether they should be granted special legal powers.
Afterward, the conservatee is visited on a regular basis by a court investigator to ensure the arrangement is still necessary. A conservatorship can be officially terminated by the court for a few reasons. The arrangement is no longer applicable if the conservatee passes away or the individual in question no longer needs such assistance. For financial conservatorships, they can also be ended if all assets are used up. The conservator themselves can also resign or be found unable to carry out their role, in which case the court would appoint another individual.
Just as the services of a business attorney in Southlake or professional assistance with LLC formation in Southlake require dedicated payment, the process intended to find and appoint an appropriate conservator can be costly. First of all, a specialized lawyer must be hired. There are also several incurred fees, like legal fees and those of court filing, the investigator, and the conservator. Also, if there is any need to revisit the court for issues or approval of transactions, this also requires more legal and attorney fees.
The chosen conservator is always paid from the funds and assets contained within the conservatee’s estate. If the conservator is a loved one or family member, they are still required to be paid an hourly rate. Some conservatees do not have an estate of substance but rather need someone to make personal care decisions on their behalf. For these conservatorships of the person, the court would choose someone as a public guardian. Rather than being paid by an estate, the guardian is paid by the public jurisdiction in which the conservatee lives and through which the guardian is employed.
Duties of the Conservator
It is essential to understand that a conservator is not in charge of supporting the conservatee. Rather, they make personal choices and handle the financial affairs of the individual. However, it is within the conservator’s role to handle the applications and processes involved to secure all necessary coverage and benefits for the person in charge. Important aspect examples include health insurance, pensions and retirement funds, public assistance, Social Security programs, and disability benefits. On the other hand, there are many conservatees that lack much of a personal estate, which is then supported financially by loved ones. This can include the conservator, if they are a family member.
There are cases when an individual must begin living in a nursing or care home in order to care for their condition properly. If this person is in agreement, a family member may sign the paperwork necessary for admission. However, for those that refuse, this alone can require a conservatorship to be put in place, given the pressing nature of the situation. The conservator must then find a place that best fits the conservatee’s needs, with the least amount of restrictions possible given their circumstances, including their assets.
Conservatorships can be costly both in time and money, but they also provide the incapacitated person with much more protection than many methods that do not involve the court. The appointed person is required to keep track of all expenditures made from the given estate, which is then overseen by the court. The role of a conservator can also be highly effective for families who do not agree on how best to manage the situation, given that the role is solely concerned with the best interests of the incapacitated person. A conservatorship can also be a more persuasive and structured method of forcing someone who needs such assistance to accept it, despite any hesitations.
One disadvantage is that all information about conservatorship hearings is considered part of the public record, which is a real issue for privacy. The situation itself can also be tough for those suffering to accept their loss of power, particularly if, after the fact, the individual feels they do not need someone to take as much control as they have.