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When You Need More Than a Power of Attorney

Understanding how best to make legal and financial decisions is not always easy. When those decisions involve an aging parent, the difficulty is layered with emotion, and limited by authority.

If you notice that your parent is having more difficulty managingtheir own affairs, caring for themselves, or operating independently in the world (legally, financially, or regarding decisions about health and safety), it may be time to consider taking on a legal position to manage their affairs.

For help navigating the world of legal stewardship roles, reach out to Oasis Senior Advisors today to learn more about best practices, the resources available, and the next steps. Call 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or use our online form.

The first step in doing this is establishing a power of attorney (POA) and a health care proxy to assist the person by performing the tasks needed to execute their wishes with regards to financial and legal issues and medical and health care. Sometimes, however, you need more than a power of attorney.

What is a Conservator?

Unlike a power of attorney, who executes the wishes of the principal, the conservator can make those decisions for that person, known as the ward. The conservator, by necessity and law, can undertake decisions based solely upon their judgment. This is an important distinction between a POA and a conservatorship.

The person assuming responsibility for the care and/or financial concerns of an incapacitated adult is called a conservator or guardian. These terms are generally interchangeable, with some exceptions.  A conservator is someone appointed to oversee the financial or personal affairs of an adult who is incapable of managing his or her own affairs or unable to care for himself or herself. A person with capacity may choose to grant conservatorship voluntarily, but if a person has some sort of cognitive impairment, the appointment will need to be done by a court.

If, for example, your parent is incapacitated by ill-health or mentally unable to responsibly manage on their own, you or a sibling can become the responsible party by becoming the conservator. A judge can grant a conservator the rights to supervise and manage all care—financial and personal—or just one or the other.

When You Are Your Parent’s Conservator

Whether your parent lives at home, in assisted living, or nursing home, one aspect of their care is managing daily life. From groceries and the electric bill to healthcare decisions and insurance claims, your parent can have one conservator who is granted protection over them and their personal needs.

Another individual can become a conservator of the estate – including all assets and finances. That person has a duty to manage, protect, and preserve the ward’s financial portfolio and all aspects thereof. Or, one person can provide both kinds of conservatorship and be responsible for both person and estate.

It is also possible, though not common, for your parent to have a conservator for their estate while maintaining independent responsibility for their own person, or vice versa.

How Do You Become a Conservator?

A power of attorney is typically granted by an individual while still in a state of health and in possession of all faculties. A conservatorship can be granted in this way as well, but that is not possible for either if there is diminished capacity. Because a person who has dementia is not able to consent to a voluntary conservatorship, if conservatorship has not been granted prior to the onset of dementia, the family is obligated to go before the probate court to appeal for an involuntary conservatorship. As you can imagine, taking personal and financial responsibility from someone and giving it to another is a serious undertaking. The judge will require documentation and testimony to convince the court that a conservatorship is necessary. When family members consider taking this significant step, it can be very emotionally fraught. Discussing the matter, pros and cons, within the family is advisable. Next, seeking professional advice from a senior living advisor will help remove lingering questions or doubts about the next steps. Contact Oasis Senior Advisors today. We can help. Fill out our online form for a callback, or dial us at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901.

Oasis Senior Advisors

Fairfield-Westchester

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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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475-619-4123