A conservatorship is a court-supervised process for assuming legal control of an adult.

The “conservator” is the person who assumes control. The “conservatee” is the person who will be controlled. A conservator will have the same level of control over financial and medical care decisions that a parent has over the financial and medical care decisions of a minor child.

A conservatorship can be “of the estate,” or “of the person” or both.

A conservatorship “of the estate” allows the conservator to assume control of the assets of the conservatee. The conservatee loses any right to control their own assets. This is different from the authority given under a power of attorney for financial management. Under a power of attorney, the agent can co-manage assets, but the principal retains the right to enter into contracts and to manage their own assets. Under a conservatorship of the estate, the conservatee has no legal rights to make any financial decisions or exercise any control over their assets.

A conservatorship “of the person” allows the conservator to make medical care decisions on behalf of the conservatee. Again, the conservatee will no longer have the right to make their own medical care decisions.

For some people, having a power of attorney for financial management and an advance healthcare directive will be sufficient and a conservatorship will not be necessary.

A conservatorship is a good choice for someone who has developmental disabilities and who never had the legal capacity to sign a power of attorney or advance healthcare directive. It is also used frequently with older adults who suffer from dementia or other disorders and who are making financial decisions that are dangerous and are not caring for their medical needs.

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