How do you start a probate conservatorship? What does the process look like?
There are two types of probate conservators: conservator of the person and conservator of the estate. A conservator of the person cares for and protects a person and a conservator of the estate handles a person’s financial matters. To obtain a conservatorship, the court must determine that a person is unable to care for himself and/or his finances. Different people can file for a conservatorship, including the proposed conservatee, his spouse, a relative, an interested state or local entity or agency, and a friend.
To start, the person requesting the conservatorship must file a petition with the court. As a conservatorship takes away certain rights of the conservatee, a judge must determine whether a conservatorship is the proper avenue for the proposed conservatee. Therefore, the petitioner must explain in the petition why a conservatorship is necessary and why possible alternatives, including an advance health care directive and power of attorney, are not appropriate. The petitioner must also gather certain information about the petitioner, including his social security number, driver’s license number, contact information of relatives, and contact information of his primary care doctor. Moreover, for a conservatorship of the estate, the petitioner must obtain a bond. After the petitioner files the petition, he must send a copy of the proposed conservatee and the proposed conservatee’s relatives for an opportunity to object to the petition.
After the petition is filed, a court investigator will speak with the proposed conservatee and his relatives regarding the conservatorship petition and effects of a conservatorship. The investigator will then write a confidential report for the court and make recommendations to the judge about the case. Afterwards, the judge will hold a hearing that the proposed conservatee must attend. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether the proposed conservatee’s relatives have been properly notified of the petition and whether an attorney needs to be appointed to represent the proposed conservatee. The judge may also decide at that hearing to grant or deny the conservatorship. If the judge grants the conservatorship, he will file an order appointing the conservator and issue Letters of Conservatorship. With the Letters of Conservatorship, the conservator of the estate can take control of the conservatee’s bank accounts and safe-deposit boxes, if any.