Unfortunately, age-related cognitive and physical decline are common. Many elderly individuals will eventually need help handling important medical and financial decisions, as well as other elements of daily life.
If you are concerned that someone close to you is unable to manage his or her affairs, it may be time to consider an elderly guardianship or conservatorship. Learn more about these court-appointed legal roles below, including when they are necessary and how you can potentially avoid them through estate planning.
The Difference Between a Guardianship and a Conservatorship
Guardianships and conservatorships are legal relationships that can help you protect the best interests of your aging friend or family member. These roles give you the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.
At the most basic level, a guardian is someone who makes decisions related to their loved one’s wellbeing. This relationship is typically formed when an incapacitated person is unable to take care of his or her personal needs.
Meanwhile, conservators are responsible for an incapacitated individual’s estate. Legally speaking, an estate is the sum of a person’s assets. In the role of a conservator, you will handle your aging loved one’s financial affairs.
It is possible to be a guardian and a conservator. Be aware that both roles come with significant responsibilities, such as arranging personal care and overseeing bank accounts. You will have a duty of care towards the elderly individual, meaning that you must put his or her best interests first.
When Might a Conservator or Guardian Be Necessary?
If an older adult is unable to care for himself or herself, a conservatorship and/or guardianship may be beneficial. Many situations may warrant the need for this fiduciary relationship, including when the aging individual:
- Has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other memory disorders
- Cannot remember to take important medications
- Fails to maintain adequate hygiene
- Cannot adequately manage his or her finances
- Has been the victim of fraud or other scams
Who Can Become an Elderly Individual’s Guardian or Conservator?
Selecting the appropriate guardian or conservator for an elderly individual is an important task. Under Colorado law, certain people have priority to serve in these roles. They include:
- An agent under a medical or property power of attorney
- A spouse or domestic partner
- A child, sibling, or other relative
If someone requires a guardian or conservator, but no one is able or willing to serve, the court may choose to appoint a professional. Keep in mind that this will likely involve a fee that get paid out of the estate.
What is the Guardianship or Conservatorship Process?
The process of becoming a guardian or conservator isn’t as simple as deciding that you want to manage your loved one’s affairs and then doing so. Beginning this legal relationship involves the court and paperwork. It calls for a thorough vetting of the elderly individual’s level of capacity.
These steps are for the benefit of the person with diminished capacity since guardianships and conservatorships will strip them of certain fundamental rights and control. However, the process can be complicated.
Working with an attorney during this time is crucial. Our highly skilled legal team will help you file for the appropriate role and navigate your new legal duties.
Get Legal Help Preparing for Old Age
Guardianships and conservatorships can be obtained as they become necessary. However, planning your estate well in advance is the preferable option. This way, you can have a say in who will fill this role without court involvement.
Additionally, there are ways to avoid a guardianship or conservatorship, including:
- Creating and funding a trust
- Signing a property power of attorney
- Establishing advance healthcare directives
Schedule Your Free Consultation in Colorado Springs
Call 719-694-3000 today to arrange a free consultation to discuss your unique guardianship and conservatorship matter. Lewis Kuhn Swan PC proudly serves Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Castle Rock, and nearby areas of Colorado.