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Conservatorship 101: What is it and How Does it Work?


Many have only heard of conservatorships through the media and what has been going on with Britney Spears these past few years. Conservatorships are an important legal decision that people make every single day for themselves and their loved ones. This decision is made when someone has mentally or physically declined to the point of not being able to take care of themselves and the court will appoint a person called the “conservator” to handle that incapacitated person’s money and property. Conservatorships are often pursued simultaneously with Guardianship actions, but there are important distinctions between the two. 

Conservatorships can be a huge help to someone not able to take care of themselves and can make it so someone in a vulnerable position does not get taken advantage of. This article will act as a guide and breakdown the basics of conservatorships and what it means to get one.

What is a Conservatorship and How Do They Work?

Conservatorships are when a judge appoints a person or organization, called “the conservator” (often a spouse, parent, attorney or other qualified adult) to care for someone, called the “conservatee,” who cannot manage their finances at that time. Reasons for not being able to take care of themselves could be illness, disability, mental illness, drug addiction, among other issues that could deem them unable to take care of themselves at that time.

The conservator will then be held responsible for paying the conservatee’s bills, rent or house payments, as well as managing their assets and property. This arrangement will require trust and responsibility as it offers the conservator significant control over the conservatee’s life and finances.

What’s the Difference Between a Conservatorship and a Guardianship?

In some states, a conservatorship and guardianship are similar, though in others, like Alabama, each comes with different responsibilities and duties to the conservatee. In 1988, the Alabama Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act went into effect and this places the responsibility of care for the person under the guardianship provisions, the responsibility for the care of the person’s finances and property under the conservator’s provisions. This way, the person doesn’t get too much power over the person all at once. You can have both a conservatorship and guardianship over a person, but it takes additional legal paperwork to do so.

Both conservatorships and/or guardianships generally involve hearings and will always require testimony and documentation before the court will appoint someone to one or both of these positions of trust. If someone is appointed as a Conservator, a surety bond will be required, which serves to protect the assets of the incapacitated person or minor. The probate proceedings can get complicated so it is good to hire an attorney to help explain and detail all of the legalities.

What Rights Do the Conservatees Have?

Though a conservatee may be a minor or incapacitated, they still retain some control over aspects of their lives and depending on the circumstances, the conservatee may retain the right to control many aspects of their own lives while under a conservatorship. One right that all conservatees have no matter the state, is the right to ask a judge to end the conservatorship. Depending on the circumstances, a conservatee may still be able to deal with their finances, make or change their will, marry, and make their own medical decisions.

It is important to note that if a conservatee is unhappy with their conservator’s performance, they have the legal right to ask to change conservators or end the conservatorship entirely. In some cases, the court will send out a court appointed investigator to ensure the conservatorship is going smoothly and answer any questions. The Court will also appoint a Guardian ad Litem to act on behalf of the conservatee. 

Ending a Conservatorship

There are several ways a conservatorship can come to an end, such as:

  • The conservatorship was temporary. Depending on the situation, a conservatorship can be made for an allotted amount of time or until the conservatee recovers from an illness or accident.
  • Petition to terminate. One party might ask the court to terminate the conservatorship, whether it means the conservator feels their assistance is no longer needed or the conservatee believes they are capable of making their own decisions.
  • Death of the conservatee. A conservatorship will immediately end if the conservatee passes away.

Get the Help and Advice You Need with Brackin Law Firm

When you or someone you love is in need of a conservatorship, an experienced lawyer can help you address the legal matters that can affect one’s quality of life and health. You’ll need an expert to interpret complex Alabama laws and you’ll want the very best to help you plan for your loved ones.

At Brackin Law Firm, our experienced attorneys can assist you or your loved ones with planning for long or short term care and ensuring medical needs are met should the time come when you or your family member can no longer care for oneself, no matter the length of time.

We are passionate about developing a plan that works for you, and we will work with you to ensure that your future is laid out in writing. If you’re searching for a skilled attorney that knows the ins and outs of conservatorship, get in touch with us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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