Guardianships and Conservatorships
What is a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship?
Guardianships and conservatorships are legal representations whereby the court orders an individual the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another individual, referred to as the ward of the court. They allow an individual to exercise legal rights on behalf of the mentally or physically disabled person who may not be able to act in their own best interest. They can sign leases on behalf of the ward, they can open bank accounts for them, they can pay bills, they can keep up on their medical care, they can ensure that the ward is taken care of in all aspects. By creating a guardianship or conservatorship, one can ensure that the wellbeing of the ward is protected.
What's the Difference Between a Guardian and a Conservator?
Although a guardian and conservator are similar, they each perform different roles for the ward. A guardian is someone who represents a ward and handles their day-to-day living. They make sure that the they have a safe, secure place to live, that they're getting the medical care that they need, and that they're handling their everyday needs. A conservator, on the other hand, handles only the financial aspect of the ward's life.
Why Should I Set Up a Guardianship or Conservatorship?
Setting up a guardianship and/or conservatorship is important in preserving the wellbeing of a ward. An adult disabled child is generally not legally competent to sign documents or keep track of their finances. As such, they would need somebody to do that for them, and here enters the court-appointed guardian and/or conservator. Additionally, if an individual who has the necessary mental capacity to act in their own best interests develops dementia, or some other form of illness that results in the individual's mental capacity being diminished to the point where they are not able to handle their own affairs or act in their own best interests, such as an elderly relative. If the proper Estate Planning has not occurred for such an elderly individual, the court will have to get involved to in order to appoint someone to act as guardian and/or conservator for such a time as the individual has diminished capacity and cannot act in their own best interests.
By having a trusted family member or friend handle the daily aspects and finances on behalf of a disabled individual, the assets and livelihood of the ward can be protected. It also allows the guardian and/or conservator to have access to the ward or to their medical records and financial records to make sure they're being cared for appropriately, that the ward is getting the right medical care they need, and that their disability money is going to help their specific needs.
Usually, in these situations, a good guardian or conservator is somebody close to the family that has grown up with this person. They know what this person likes to do, understands their lifestyle, and, most importantly: They are trustworthy.
When Should I Set Up a Guardianship or Conservatorship for an Adult Disabled Child?
The best time to set up a guardianship or conservatorship is before the disabled adult child becomes a legal adult. In the state of Nebraska, this happens when they turn 19. If you are interested in becoming a guardian and/or conservator for your disabled adult child, you should consult an attorney when the ward is around the age of 18. This will allow you to make sure that the ward is set up for a successful transition to a legal adult.
The Requirements to Become a Conservator or Guardian
To become a guardian and/or conservator, you must go through a court process to be appointed. The court requires you to undergo a class, undergo a background check, and provide information about your own personal finances in order to assist the court in determining whether you would be an appropriate choice to act as guardian and/or conservator. There are also a number of other “hoops” that you must jump through, as well. Once a guardian and/or conservator is approved by the court, there are annual reporting requirements to keep the court updated on the ward's condition and to ensure that the guardian and/or conservator are acting as is required of them. In some situations, you must ask the court permission to spend money.
Dedicated Guardianship and Conservatorship Lawyer
Clinch Law Firm, LLC is committed to helping families manage their assets, finances, and estate. If you know a disabled adult child or elder family member that you would like to set up a guardianship or conservatorship for, we can help.
Clinch Law Firm, LLC offers in-person, virtual, and telephone appointments for York County and the surrounding areas, including Seward County, Fillmore County, Hamilton County, Merrick County and more! Call us at 402-908-5699 to schedule a consultation at our York office, or feel free to schedule a complimentary 30-minute telephone consultation or a 60-minute in-person consultation for a time that works for you here: Appointment Scheduler.