As we age, our ability to care for ourselves diminishes considerably. While some of us are fortunate enough to handle our own affairs late into life, others become unable to perform even some of life's basic duties. When this happens, these individuals or their loved ones may want to consider creating legal protections to ensure that the vulnerable individual is appropriately cared for.
One way to do this is to create a conservatorship. A conservatorship is a legal relationship created by court order whereby one party becomes responsible for the care of another when that individual becomes unable to care for himself or herself. These conservatorships can be created through the probate process, but they can also be created when an individual is struggling with a mental health illness.
The conservator has many responsibilities. To start, he or she is responsible for ensuring the vulnerable individual's safety and medical care. He or she will also be responsible for deciding where the vulnerable individual will live, as well as planning and providing for all life's essentials. This can include providing an individual with clothing, meals, housing and items of personal care. In these circumstances, the conservator has to report the vulnerable individual's status to the court from time-to-time.
If a conservator is named to look after an estate, then he or she will carry additional responsibilities. Amongst these responsibilities are the duty to manage the vulnerable individual's finances, identify and manage all assets, pay all living expenses and collect all income. Again, the conservator in this situation will have to report to the court on occasion to ensure that all matters are being handled correctly.
Conservatorships can play an important role in elder care. However, these undertakings need to be carefully thought out before sought. Qualified elder law attorneys can help individuals and their loved ones consider whether a conservatorship is right in their situation.