Caring for an aging loved one is an honorable act, and yet one filled with emotional decisions along the way. One particular decision that can feel difficult to make, is when it is time to seek a conservatorship. A conservatorship will allow you to formally file in Probate Court to assist a loved one who is unable to handle their affairs without assistance.
If your loved one has signed a power of attorney naming you as his or her Agent, it is likely that the conservatorship decision will not be necessary. Then, the decision becomes when to exercise an agent’s duties under a power of attorney. Sometimes the transition for your aging loved one is easier because they can collaborate with you and allow you to take charge as they realize they can’t or don’t want to manage their own affairs.
When considering a conservatorship, it’s important to think about the needs your loved one faces and how this arrangement would work within your family. In Massachusetts, a conservatorship is established when the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court appoints a person to serve as the conservator for the individual, known as the conservatee or respondent. An applicant will need to present the court with a medical certificate that demonstrates the scope of the conservatorship that’s needed.
You can either seek a temporary or permanent conservatorship. A temporary conservatorship can be set for a period of up to 90 days, but the judge can extend the temporary order if there are extraordinary circumstances illustrated in the petition. You can also seek a co-conservatorship, where two parties will work together to care for the conservatee’s interests.
Since a conservator is appointed to protect and manage the conservatee’s money, petitions are heavily scrutinized and can take months to be granted. If granted, the conservator’s duties and responsibilities will include managing the conservatee’s finances, paying the conservatee’s bills, protecting the conservatee’s assets, and paying for the conservatee’s living and medical expenses.
Additionally, within 90 days of the appointment, the conservator will need to file an Inventory with the court. The Inventory consists of a detailed statement of the conservatee’s assets. Annually, the conservator will also need to file an Accounting. The court can also require the conservator to submit a financial plan.
If you believe that a conservatorship is right for your loved one, or that they are able and willing to sign a power of attorney, experienced Attorney Susana Lannik, of Lannik Law, LLC can help you navigate the process with advance planning and a power of attorney or file a conservatorship when you’re ready. We look forward to working with you.