If you have an elderly family member or loved one that is in declining physical or mental health, you may wish to consider seeking an appointment as a conservator of the person’s estate. But of course, there’s a lot to think about if you want to go down this path. Not only are you taking on a lot of responsibility, but your loved one may not agree with your decision.
Before deciding whether or not to seek guardianship or conservatorship, a basic understanding of the difference between the two is necessary. A guardianship typically gives the guardian control over the estate and person of a minor while a conservatorship gives the conservator control over the estate and person of an adult in need of protection.
Although the appointment of a conservatorship requires court approval, a conservatorship in California may be entered into voluntarily by the ward. If, for example, an elderly family member recognizes that his or her physical or mental health is declining and fears that he or she will eventually be unable to make sound decisions, a conservatorship may be created. However, for a person who still has mental capacity an estate plan based upon a will or trust together with health care and financial powers of attorney will likely be a far more cost effective and efficient way to proceed.
As the conservator, you will likely have the power to pay debts, manage assets, collect debts owed to the ward and create an estate plan or asset protection plan for the ward. All of these duties, however, will be court-supervised.
The best way to approach the issues of an elderly person whose health may be in jeopardy is to consult with a qualified and experienced attorney who focuses upon both estate planning and elder law.