There are good reasons for courts to impose conservatorships, particularly to protect individuals vulnerable to fraud. But the conservatorship order has a drastic effect. It takes away the right to manage a person’s own affairs.
Some courts have been increasing the scrutiny of conservators in order to ensure that the conservatorship actually provides protection rather than the very exploitation it is designed to prevent. Using auditors in Minnesota is one example.
Since 2012, auditors working for the Minnesota court system have been scrutinizing how those individuals spend the money entrusted to them, a process that has accelerated since a more robust financial reporting system went online in 2014. Most audits find everything in order. But in 10 to 15 percent of the cases, auditors find problems serious enough to require a judge’s review.
One of the unfortunate consequences of this increased scrutiny is that it makes the conservatorship process even more difficult and expensive. More time and effort must go into the reports submitted to the court. Scrutiny and accountability are to be encouraged, but the expense of unnecessary conservatorships should be avoided.
Before filing for a conservatorship, all realistic alternatives should first be explored. This is another reason to prepare an estate plan in advance. Having a complete estate plan in place creates more alternatives to a conservatorship if and when the time comes to confront the problem of incapacity.
Find the entire article from the Minnesota Star Tribune here.
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Photo credit: Steven Depolo.