When an adult is not able to make decisions on their own due to a developmental disorder, an accident or because they are in the latter stages of diseases such as Alzheimers, a family may need to step in to protect them from themselves. The courts heavily scrutinize petitions for a conservatorship to protect a vulnerable person from unscrupulous relatives that seek to take advantage of a protected person. If the subject of the conservatorship objects, it can be an extremely contentious process. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced Fall River, Massachusetts conservatorship attorney to represent you in the proceeding.
The Process For Obtaining A Conservatorship
To start the process, an interested person must file a Petition for Appointment, along with a medical certificate that is signed by a licensed healthcare professional within the last thirty days. For the hearing, the petitioners must provide an updated medical certificate, and the judge will usually grant a limited conservatorship at that time. An interested party can choose to seek a temporary or permanent conservatorship, depending on the nature of the disability and the prognosis for recovery. Temporary conservatorships can be extended based on a finding of “extraordinary circumstances.” It’s important to note that it’s possible to request a “co-conservatorship” to protect the protected person. This has the advantage of enabling two signature checks and other financial protections for the protected person’s benefit.
Standard for Incapacity In Massachusetts
According to Mass.gov incapacity in Massachusetts is defined as “someone with a clinically diagnosed condition that leaves them unable to make or communicate decisions affecting their physical health, safety or care.” If the subject of the conservatorship objects, they may hire an attorney or request that the court appoint “Rogers” council to represent them. It’s crucial to understand that a court will not appoint a conservator simply because a person shows poor financial judgment or makes bad decisions, there must be a severe, clinically recognized basis for the incapacity.
Duties and Responsibilities of Conservators
Any adult can serve as a conservator to fulfill the following types of duties on behalf of the protected person:
- Pay bills, including taxes;
- Enter into contracts for real property and services;
- Collect and manage assets;
- Oversee maintenance of real and personal property,
- Pay for and manage living and medical expenses and
- Maintain business operations.
The duties and responsibilities of a conservator will differ greatly depending on the abilities of the protected person. For example, a person may be able to write checks for the rent, but lack judgment about making decisions for a stock portfolio. A conservatorship can be carefully crafted to meet the needs at hand.
Oversight By the Court During The Conservatorship
The law in Massachusetts provides protections to ensure that the conservator does not use the protected person’s assets for their own benefit. For example, after a conservatorship commences, the conservator must submit a detailed statement of the protected person’s assets, called an “inventory,” within ninety days. An accounting must be filed annually with the court, and the court may also require the conservator to produce a financial plan.
Conservatorship vs. Guardianship
The distinction between a conservatorship and a guardianship is usually the types of decisions that can be made by the person that’s appointed. Guardianship is usually limited to health issues such as medical care, proper nutrition, and housing for a person that has been certified incompetent or incapacitated by a Massachusetts court. Conservatorship is usually a broader power that includes the powers under guardianship and extends them to include managing bank accounts, brokerage accounts and other assets of the protected person’s estate. If you’re not sure which type of proceeding is appropriate for your situation, it’s wise to speak to an experienced Fall River estate planning attorney that can help you make the right decision.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conservatorship Attorneys
If you are considering seeking a conservatorship to protect a person you care about, it’s important to speak to an experienced Fall River, Massachusetts conservatorship attorney before assets are lost. Conservatorship proceedings are complicated, and contested proceedings can be lengthy, so you need the most qualified and specialized counsel to represent you. The Botelho Law Group is the most well-respected estate planning firm in Fall River Massachusetts. Call (888) 269-0988 to schedule a free confidential consultation.
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Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.
BOTELHO LAW GROUP
Attorneys At Law
901 Eastern Ave.
Fall River, MA 02723