What is conservatorship, and should you request it?

Feb 15, 2022

Like many adult children in Florida, you may be entering a phase in life where one or both of your parents need your support. Perhaps, your mother or father has recently transitioned to assisted living or a nursing home. You might have concerns, especially if he or she no longer seems able to handle his or her own affairs. Learning more about conservatorship might be helpful.

A conservator is a court-appointed person tasked with making financial decisions and handling other issues for a person who can no longer act on his or her own behalf. As opposed to a power of attorney, which your parent might incorporate into an estate plan, you petition the court for conservatorship if you believe your loved one is no longer competent to manage health, financial and other decisions alone.

Any number of issues can result in mental incompetence

Your loved one might have suffered a brain injury or the diagnosis of a neurological condition, such as dementia. If he or she did not sign a power of attorney or health care directive before losing competence, asking the court to appoint a conservator might be helpful.

In some cases, a person might file a petition to request conservatorship on behalf of another person, and someone else (including the person needing the conservatorship) might challenge the petition. When you ask the court to appoint a conservator, it activates a process of investigation to determine whether the court agrees that the person in question is in need of conservatorship.

Some conservatorships are temporary

If the court appoints you to be a conservator, a court investigator will continue to reassess the situation periodically by meeting with the conservatee (the person over whom you’ve been given conservatorship). In some cases, the court can choose a neutral party to act as a conservator.

For instance, if you have siblings, and you all disagree about what’s best for your parent, who is no longer competent, a neutral party can be appointed to step in and make decisions. A person who challenges a petition by saying that he or she doesn’t need a conservator must adhere to the court’s ruling if the judge decides otherwise.

What if someone petitions the court for conservatorship over you?

There have been people in the past who try to misuse the Florida legal system. For instance, some people have managed to gain conservatorship, but their intentions were corrupt, perhaps to have control over a person’s money. If you believe someone has petitioned the court for conservatorship over you, and you are of sound mind, you can prove it during the investigation.

The court always has the best interests of a prospective conservatee in mind when making these types of decisions. No matter which side of the issue you’re on, learning as much as you can about state laws regarding conservatorships ahead of time can make the legal process a lot less stressful.

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