If your loved one has shown signs of dementia or some other neurodegenerative condition, it is no doubt a strenuous time for your family. You might be visiting Florida nursing homes or assisted living facilities, knowing that the time has come when you can’t leave your family member alone. You may have also noticed that cognitive decline has impeded your loved one’s ability to manage his or her own affairs or make decisions regarding finances, health, food, hygiene and other life issues. A conservatorship might help.
A conservator is a court-appointed entity who has authority to make decisions on another person’s behalf, in which case the other person is the “conservatee” or “ward,” depending on jurisdiction. If you are acting in this capacity, the court might grant you limited or full conservatorship. There are several factors to consider when determining whether requesting a conservatorship would be in the best interest of your loved one.
Conditions that often precede a conservatorship
If a doctor has diagnosed your loved one with any of the conditions on the following list, it demonstrates a legitimate cause for requesting conservatorship:
- Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Suicidal tendencies
- A psychotic episode
- Cognitive impairment
- A physical incapacitation
This is not an extensive list but shows examples of issues that may convince the court that a particular individual would benefit from having a conservator appointed to act on his or her behalf.
Individual must undergo testing before the court will appoint a conservator
Even if you are aware that your loved one has shown signs of any of the conditions mentioned in the previous section, he or she must undergo in-depth mental examinations and medical testing. Such tests can confirm or rule out incapacitation.
If the court receives written diagnoses from a licensed physician or psychiatrist, stating that the professional opinion is that your loved one is unable to make sound decisions due to his or her condition, the judge overseeing the case may determine it best to appoint a conservator.
Conservator is accountable for decisions made on behalf of a conservatee
If you are the conservator for your loved one, the court will maintain oversight of the decisions you make while managing your family member’s affairs. The court can revoke a conservatorship if a judge believes that the appointed party has abused his or her position.
Also, if your loved one’s condition improves, and he or she feels that an incapacitation no longer exists, one can request removal of the conservatorship. Of course, additional tests must occur and new diagnoses submitted to the court before a judge will consider a removal. Legal complications sometimes arise when family members disagree about conservatorship, which is why it is always best to know where to seek elder law guidance and support, if needed.