Conservators aren’t just for Britney Spears—they’re court-appointed when an individual is mentally or physically incapacitated, or when a minor needs assistance managing their property.
Conservators oversee finances while guardians oversee their ward’s personal care. In fact, in Massachusetts, guardians are not allowed to manage their ward’s finances at all. (Other states allow the roles to overlap more.)
Guardians are typically responsible for tending to the ward’s physical and medical needs, and often have the power to make medical decisions on their behalf. Conservators, on the other hand, are responsible for investing their ward’s liquid assets, overseeing real property, paying bills and filing income taxes.
Avoiding Court Appointments
The process of obtaining a court-appointed guardian or conservator can be a lengthy and expensive process, and does not guarantee the person appointed is one you would have chosen. If you want to avoid a court appointment there are two important documents you should prepare: (1) a Health Care Proxy and (2) a Durable Power of Attorney. You can also consider a living trust.
Massachusetts Health Care Proxy or Advance Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive (sometimes referred to as a “medical power of attorney”) allows a person of your choosing authority over your medical care and can make medical decisions on your behalf. Separately, you’re also able to make your medical wishes known, from organ donation to end-of-life care in a living will.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is designed to give a person of your choosing the authority to manage your finances—for your benefit, and your benefit only. A “durable” power of attorney continues even if you become incapacitated.
A living trust is another option to avoid conservatorship. You can put your assets into the living trust and name a successor trustee to manage the trust if you become incapacitated. This will allow them to pay for bills that must be taken care of while you’re unable to do so such as:
- medical care
- other bills
Money, Time and Privacy
These documents mirror a lot of what conservators and guardians are required to do, but the cost and time investment are far lower than having a guardian or conservator appointed by the court. Without these docuemnts, it can easily be tens of thousands of dollars for:
- Notifying the entire family of the court hearing
- Establishing the conservatee’s incapacity
- Filing fees
- Estate appraisals
- Attorney’s fees
- Investigator’s fees
There’s also the fact that this will be a matter of public record, which can range from feeling intrusive to making your estate a target for grifters. Compare all that to a few hours to create two simple documents, or a trust, and it makes sense to plan ahead. In fact, you can even designate backup choices for these roles to be sure you’ll be cared for by someone you trust.
When you’re ready to create your durable power of attorney and advance health care directive, contact Baker Law Group, P.C. Our team of estate planning professionals will make sure every possibility is accounted for so your loved ones will never be caught off guard.