Many people in Massachusetts have heard of conservatorships, but when a family member becomes incapacitated, it becomes important to understand just what this role entails. According to the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, a conservator is one who takes care of the assets and property of another. In general, a person would only need a conservator if he or she has substantial financial resources.
The Massachusetts Guardianship Association explains that the conservator could be someone that the protected person has named, but the probate court has to approve the one nominated. This is so essential because it is a significant fiduciary responsibility and includes performing the following tasks:
- Inventorying the assets and income and file the information with the probate court
- Creating a financial plan and file it with the probate court
- Managing assets
- Investing and managing investments or appointing an agent such as a broker or accountant to do so
- Paying debts
- Taking care of ongoing expenses
While the conservator must preserve the best interests of the protected person, he or she is not personally financially responsible for the debts and expenses. Therefore, the assets and income of the conservator and the protected person must not be mingled.
An adult may not need a conservator if he or she has already named a durable power of attorney to handle financial decisions in the case of incapacitation. A joint account with a spouse or other trusted relative or friend may be an option for some people who just need help with their finances. Alternately, someone could hire an independent bill payer to take care of the checkbook without relinquishing the ability to write checks. The Social Security Administration may appoint a representative to handle a disabled person’s bills if the only source of income is Social Security benefits.