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Conservatorship Basics

Blog, Probate

Posted in on April 3, 2016

A Conservator is a person appointed by the court to be responsible for the estate of a person who is unable to manage his or her financial resources for various reasons, including but not limited to, mental and physical illness or disability, chronic drug or alcohol use, confinement, or disappearance.

When it becomes clear that a person cannot manage his or her own financial decisions (the “protected person”), an interested person may file a Petition for a Conservatorship with the Probate Court for the county in which that person resides in or owns real estate.  The Petition should provide a brief description of the nature and extent of the protected person’s alleged impairment and how that impairment is impacting his or her financial decisions. Additionally, the Petition should provide a general statement of the type and value of property of the protected person’s estate and a reason why a Conservatorship is in the best interest of that person.

Conservatorship Basics

For a Conservatorship of an incapacitated person a Medical Certificate must be filed.  A Medical Certificate is a lengthy form that must be completed by a registered physician, licensed psychologist or certified psychiatric nurse clinical specialist.  The date of the exam by each professional must be within thirty (30) days of the filing of the Petition for Conservator.

Who may serve as a Conservator?  A person can be nominated as Conservator by the person to be protected or the Probate and Family Court can nominate a professional to serve as Conservator.  Additionally, the spouse of the protected person, an adult child of the protected person, a parent of the protected person, an adult that has resided with the protected person for more than six months before the filing of the petition, or a person related to the protected person by blood, adoption, or marriage can all petition the court to be appointed.

Once the Petition has been filed, all interested parties must be notified and a hearing will be held to determine whether a Conservator is necessary. The person to be protected does have a right to have counsel. However, the person to be protected can be also be excused from attending the hearing, with the court’s permission. After the hearing and upon the Court’s Order, Letters of Conservatorship will issue. The appointed person may also be required to post a bond.

Once appointed as Conservator, you are required to take immediate control of and safeguard the protected person’s property.  You must locate and take control of the assets, collect the income of the protected person, budget the income and assets of the protected person, as well as pay the bills of the protected person.

An Inventory of all of the property of the protected person that the Conservator is aware of with estimates of the value of the items listed must be filed with the Court within ninety (90) days after the date of appointment as Conservator. A formal Accounting outlining all debits and credits to the protected person’s assets must be filed with the Court yearly thereafter.

A Conservatorship is terminated upon the death of the protected person or upon petition to the Court if the protected person no longer meets the standard for establishing the Conservatorship.

Because a Conservatorship deprives a person of the ability to make important decisions, the Court is deliberate and carefully before deciding whether to create and thereafter continue such a relationship. Additionally, on July 1, 2009, specific provisions of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code went into effect dramatically revising and reforming our current conservatorship laws.  Please let the Quincy probate law attorneys at Baker, Braverman, and Barbadoro, P.C. help you navigate your way through this process.    – Christine LaRose