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Using a conservatorship to provide for an aging parent

All of us want our parents and older loved ones to live long, healthy lives. But as individuals age, their risk of developing a cognitive impairment increases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in nine older adults report worsening or more frequent bouts of confusion and memory loss. The rate increases with age. This self-reported Subjective Cognitive Decline is one of the earliest potential signs of dementia.

One of the ways family members can help ensure a parent or relative with a cognitive impairment receives proper support is through a conservatorship.

What is a conservatorship?

Conservatorship is a court-approved designation that grants an individual (known as the conservator) the legal duty to handle certain responsibilities for another person (the conservatee). Conservatees are individuals living with an impairment that prevents them from meeting their daily needs on their own.

How is conservatorship granted?

The courts take conservatorship quite seriously, as it involves removing an individual’s right to make certain decisions for themselves. Establishing a conservatorship requires filing a petition with the court, then adhering to the subsequent court process. This will generally involve a hearing, a court investigator and conversations with the proposed conservatee to determine whether such a legal arrangement is necessary.

What does a conservator do?

There are a few different types of conservatorships, but broadly speaking, they can be broken down into two categories. A conservator of the person ensures an individual is receiving daily life needs. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Food
  • Housing and shelter
  • Clothing
  • Health care
  • Housekeeping
  • Recreation

A conservator of the estate looks after an individual’s financial affairs. Duties might involve:

  • Paying the conservatee’s bills
  • Managing the conservatee’s assets
  • Investing the conservatee’s money
  • Budgeting for the conservatee

A conservatorship might be quite limited, granting a conservator only very specific responsibilities. Or, it may be broad, and a person could take on both a well-being and financial conservator role. No matter the case, conservatees retain a number of basic rights, and a conservator is expected to follow the conservatee’s general wishes while involving them in decision-making as much as possible.

Seeing a loved one struggle with cognitive impairment is not easy. It can challenge even the strongest individuals in many ways. A conservatorship, in the right situation, can provide you some peace of mind that your mother, father or other close relative is receiving everything they need.

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