Most families want the best for their loved ones and to support them in any way that will help them succeed and live full, healthy lives. In most situations, this happens behind the scenes in private conversations and agreements. However, there are cases where someone becomes incapable of advocating for themselves or unable to make decisions regarding their own health or finances due to recent or lifelong physical or mental disabilities. In such situations, their loved ones or someone close to them may look into placing them in a conservatorship to help them stay safe and protect their assets.
What is a Conservatorship?
The state of Colorado defines a conservatorship as having someone “appointed by the court to manage the estate of a protected person.” Conservatorships are put in place for people who are incapable of understanding information given to them or who are unable to make decisions that are in their best interests. Anyone who is placed in a conservatorship will be assigned a conservator, who is given the legal right to manage the assets of that person.
What are the Responsibilities of a Conservator?
In Colorado, the responsibilities of a conservator include (but are not limited to):
- Accounting: Anyone who is the conservator of another person’s estate must keep detailed financial records regarding that estate, including their income, payments they make to other people, and potential financial liabilities. These records need to show the balance of all the protected person’s accounts from both the beginning and end of each month.
- Filing taxes: Since conservators are tasked with managing the entire estate of the protected person, they must file taxes on behalf of that person.
- Growing assets and trusts: Conservators are required to invest the assets of the protected person’s estate to balancethe need for new income and the long-term growth of principal. Conservators are expected to avoid making investments that could be risky, to make diverse investments, and to seek and accept advice from financial experts.
- Making payments: Conservators must make payments on behalf of the protected person for their care, such as medical bills, mortgage payments, phone bills, and more. These are payments to third parties that benefit the protected person through their services.
Are Conservators Held to an Ethical Standard?
The court entrusts conservators with a high level of responsibility regarding the protected person they are working for. This responsibility is given with the understanding that the conservator will always make decisions in the best interest of the conservatee, and that the conservator will never benefit from the conservatorship at the detriment of the protected person.
Some conservators are required to get a fiduciary bond, which acts as an insurance policy protecting the conservatee’s money in case their conservator does not perform their duties as required. If a conservator is found to be mistreating the estate of the conservatee or if they are not fulfilling all their responsibilities, they will be replaced and could face legal trouble.
What is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is put in place when someone is incapacitated to the point that they cannot take care of themselves in basic ways, such as their physical and mental health, safety, or hygiene. A guardian is selected to ensure that person receives the care they need in an ethical and favorable manner. Guardianships are only meant to be put in place as an extreme last resort.
Ultimately, guardianships remove someone’s legal rights to their own legal, financial, and medical decisions, and are often put in place for life. People put in guardianships are evaluated by medical professionals who determine that person cannot care for themselves and could put themselves at risk if left to their own devices.
What are the Responsibilities of a Guardian?
Many of the responsibilities guardians have are related to the daily life of the protected person. Guardians are responsible for:
- Living arrangements for the protected person, either a new place to live or maintaining their current place of residence
- Providing food for the protected person and ensuring their diet matches the recommendations of that person’s medical team
- Providing the protected person with clothing, self-care, hygiene, and recreational items
- Ensuring the protected person has transportation to go to their medical appointments and other places they need or want to go
- Ensuring their living space is kept clean (hiring housekeepers, lawn maintenance workers, etc)
- Keeping contact with the protected person to ensure they are happy and comfortable and to stay aware of their needs and overall well-being
- Encouraging the protected person to engage in decision making as much as they are capable or interested in doing
- Determining whether the protected person is eligible for public assistance and applying for said assistance
- Notifying the court of changes in the protected person’s condition if it has improved or deteriorated
Unfortunately, it is impossible to keep an exhaustive list of responsibilities that can apply to all guardians because each guardianship case is unique. Every protected person will have their own needs, and the state of Colorado will work to ensure those needs are met by someone the protected person is comfortable with and who has their best interest in mind.
When Does Someone Need a Conservatorship or Guardianship?
Deciding whether to place a loved one in a conservatorship or guardianship is an extremely difficult and emotionally taxing choice. By doing so, the protected person’s life will be forever changed, and their legal rights will be limited and placed in the hands of another person. However, these arrangements serve a necessary purpose, and should be sought after if someone is in dire need of protection and assistance completing necessary financial and personal tasks.
A conservatorship or guardianship should be considered for people who:
- Are in a long-term coma with little chance of recovery and cannot manage their financial or personal affairs
- Have permanent developmental or mental disabilities that prevent them from being able to care for themselves or their finances
- Are diagnosed with progressive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, that will make them incapable of handling their business over time
- Have suffered traumatic brain injuries or strokes that have left them permanently physically or mentally incapacitated
- Have extreme cases of certain mental illnesses that prevent them for caring for themselves or that make them a danger to themselves
These arrangements are intended to be used in very specific cases and the requirements for them to be granted are dire. These arrangements cannot be granted unless the court deems someone incapacitated legally.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have a loved one you believe needs to be placed under a conservatorship or guardianship, contact the Law Office of Alexandra White, P.C. today. We understand that these situations are emotionally draining and complex to understand, and we provide our clients with empathetic service and detailed explanations of the legal process. Our goal is to provide our clients with peace of mind in difficult times. Contact us today at (303) 647-4245 or via our contact page.