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How an estate plan can minimize the risk of conservatorship

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2024 | Conservatorships |

For most minor children, their parents are their guardians. When they turn 18, they acquire all of the freedoms and responsibilities that come with adulthood. Their parents no longer control their choices or daily lives. Adults in California generally have control over their own medical decisions and finances. They have a responsibility to meet their own needs and to handle their personal obligations.

Occasionally, when adults are incapable of living independently, other adults may request the authority necessary to support them. Other states refer to that as adult guardianship, but California calls that situation conservatorship. An adult subject to conservatorship has someone else to manage their financial matters. The conservator may control what health care they receive and even arrange their daily schedule.

Some people who lived independent, productive lives end up subject to a conservatorship later in life as their health or cognitive function declines. Estate planning before someone faces those challenges might help them avoid an involuntary conservatorship.

People can choose who helps support them

No one likes to hand control over their life to someone else, especially if they don’t have a positive relationship with the person assuming authority. One of the many challenges with court-ordered conservatorship is the lack of predictability.

Any competent adult could potentially seek the role of a conservator. Professional caregivers or a family member who has always had a strained relationship with an older adult could request a conservatorship in California. Such scenarios might lead to neglect or even abuse.

Those thinking about their needs as they age can reduce the risk of an involuntary conservatorship with the right paperwork. Someone who drafts durable powers of attorney can name an individual of their own choosing to oversee their medical needs or handle their financial matters if they experience an emergency.

Other powers of attorney sometimes lose their authority when the testator who drafted them becomes permanently incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney retain their legal authority until the testator dies or recovers from their medical challenges. Someone who preemptively drafted durable powers of attorney can trust that the person they chose is the party who may control their finances or oversee their medical care when they are at their most vulnerable.

Learning more about different estate planning tools may benefit those trying to ensure their comfort and peace of mind later in life. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.