Sometimes adults need help taking care of themselves including handling their financial and legal decisions. Michigan law allows a judge to appoint a “conservator” of an adult in certain situations where help is needed. A conservator is a person appointed by a probate court and given power and responsibility for the estate (financial assets and property) of an adult (called a protected individual).
The Probate Pro has produced this video to better understand these issues including the difference between a guardian, conservator and power of attorney.
A court-appointed conservator can make decisions for the person who needs help. The judge will determine what decisions the conservator can make.
A conservator may be needed when the individual is unable to manage his or her property and financial affairs effectively because of certain reasons and:
1) he or she has property that will be wasted or used up unless proper management is provided; or
2) funds are needed for the support, care, and welfare of the adult and any of his or her dependents.
A mentally competent adult who, because of age or physical limitation, may voluntarily petition the court himself or herself for the appointment of a conservator to assist in managing his/her estate.
Some of the reasons that might prevent the individual from being able to manage his or her property and financial affairs are:
1) mental illness or deficiency;
2) physical illness or disability;
3) chronic use of alcohol /other intoxicants;
5) detention by a foreign power; or
A conservator might not be necessary if someone else already has legal authority (an individual with power of attorney, for example) to make decisions about the individual’s estate and there are no problems with the decisions being made. An adult can choose to appoint someone to take care of his or her finances through a financial “Power of Attorney.” However before signing the Power of Attorney, the adult must be of sound mind.
To begin the process to request the appointment of a conservator, a Petition for Appointment of Conservator needs to be filed. Any person who is interested in the individual’s welfare may complete a Petition for Appointment of Conservator and file it, along with the filing fee, with the probate court.
After the petition is accepted for filing, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (often referred to as simply a GAL) to write a report and make a recommendation to the court. The court may also appoint an attorney to represent the individual in the court proceeding unless the individual has his or her own lawyer or unless a mentally competent adult voluntarily requests the appointment.
It is important for you to cooperate with the guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem does not have the authority to make decisions for the individual. The individual may have to pay for the guardian ad litem. If necessary, the court may also order the individual to be examined by a physician or a mental health professional.
If the court believes an individual’s estate requires immediate protection before appointing a conservator, the court may issue a preliminary protective order. This order may involve the appointment of a special conservator. The order will authorize specific acts that provide for immediate protection of the individual’s assets.