When an individual becomes unable to make necessary life decisions on his or her own, that person likely needs someone in a position to make those decisions for him or her. Of course, you would likely want to have someone you trust and who acts responsibly to have that power. However, unless you plan accordingly, a judge could appoint a conservator to act on your behalf.
Need for a conservator
As mentioned, incapacitation often presents a need for someone else to make decisions for you. Mental illnesses, age-related issues or severe physical injuries could all result in the need for decision-making assistance. When it comes to conservatorships, the court appoints an individual they see fit to take on such a role in order to attend to your affairs. As a result, the person appointed may not necessarily have been your first choice.
Responsibilities of a conservator
The types of duties and responsibilities a conservator have depend on a variety of factors. The level of your incapacitation, duties deemed necessary by the court and documents created as part of your estate plan could all play a role in the power of a conservator. Commonly, a conservator takes care of financial responsibilities but decisions regarding health care and living situations may also fall to the conservator.
In some cases, more than one individual could gain appointment. If an individual's appointment allows him or her to deal only with financial duties, that person obtains the title of conservator of the estate. If a judge appoints a party to make personal decisions for you, the agent is known as the conservator of the person.
Since appointing someone yourself may prove preferable than running of the risk of the court appointing an undesired conservator, you may wonder whether you have the ability to avoid such an appointment. Luckily, steps exist that could lessen the likelihood of a court-appointed conservator. Many estate planning documents address the potential for incapacitation and how you want such a situation handled.
By creating a power of attorney document and appointing an agent or agents, you choose the individual or individuals you desire to handle certain affairs in the event of your incapacitation. Additionally, information in your will could also prove useful when it comes to such appointments.
If you would like to ensure that your wishes are known well before the need for assistance arises, you may wish to create or review your estate plan. Speaking with an experienced California estate planning attorney could help you address any concerns you may have when it comes to the possibility of a conservatorship and how to potentially avoid such an appointment.