Most people never think about what might happen if they suddenly become unable to care for themselves, manage their affairs or live alone. Unless steps are taken early on, you may find yourself in an adversarial process in the court to have a person declared incapacitated to manage their own affairs. Incapacitated means unable to effectively receive or evaluate information and unable to communicate decisions regarding personal matters and financial affairs. In these cases, the court may appoint a guardian or a conservator or both. It is important to understand the clear distinction between these positions:
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to manage day-to-day decisions regarding a person’s personal care. This may include decision as to where the person will live, ensure the person’s personal hygiene needs are met and ensure the person’s proper nutrition, medication and other basic necessities are met. In some cases, a guardian may also handle medical treatment for the incapacitated person.
A conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage the financial decisions and assets of an incapacitated person. This may include day-to-day management of assets and income, payment of bills, filing of tax returns, and applying for public benefits.
Guardians and Conservators: Not Always Adversarial
Some families need to have an appointed guardian or conservator because of special circumstances that may not necessarily be adversarial because someone has been declared incompetent. For example, parents of an adult child who has special needs may designate a guardian or conservator to handle the child’s affairs in the event they predecease their child. Minor children who have lost their families may also need a conservator or guardian to protect their interests as well.
Most families would prefer to plan for any eventuality rather than allowing the courts to manage these decisions for them. If you are concerned about family members who have special needs, you have minor children or you have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may wish to consider appointing someone to handle both your day-to-day care and your finances on your behalf or on behalf of your child.
I have dealt with many situations where families wish to plan ahead for any eventuality. Contact Denton Law, L.L.C. at (720) 638-1605 with your guardianship or conservatorship questions in Lawrence, Kansas and Northeast Kansas, including the Kansas City metropolitan area. I also provide these services in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area and Grand County, Colorado.