Overview of Different Types of Massachusetts Conservatorships

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The Role of Different Conservatorships in Massachusetts

Conservatorships are typically established for individuals who are incapacitated due to coma, advanced Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or other serious illnesses or disabilities that prevent them from managing their estate. In other words, if an individual is unable to make sound decisions regarding their finances due to their physical or mental condition, a conservatorship may be established to protect their interests. While the backdrop of a conservatorship’s appointment might be due to an adult being sick, the conservator cannot make medical decisions for that individual. This is one of the major differences between a guardian and conservator.

The use of conservatorships can be helpful in situations where the incapacitated individual has no other means of support or is vulnerable to exploitation. By appointing a conservator, the court can ensure that the individual’s assets are managed responsibly.

However, it’s essential to note that conservatorships can also be controversial, and some individuals may view them as a loss of autonomy and independence. Therefore, it’s crucial to evaluate each case carefully and ensure that conservatorships are only established when necessary and appropriate.

Establishing a conservatorship is a sensitive issue

In legal terms, a conservatorship refers to a process where a person seeks to be appointed by the court as the conservator or caretaker for someone else referred to as the “protected person.” The conservator is granted the authority to take charge of the financial decisions relating to the protected person. However, in Massachusetts, the court starts from the premise that all adults can make financial decisions, making this process a sensitive matter. Due to the complicated nature of this process, the court may take a few weeks or months before the petition is approved.

Financial Conservatorships

Financial Conservatorships are, as the name suggests, created to help manage someone’s finances, usually a loved one. Often, these conservatorships are established by adult children to care for aging parents who begin showing signs of Alzheimer’s or other mentally debilitating symptoms. Conservators can be paid for their services. There’s also court supervision involved during the conservatorship. An attorney, like those at our law firm, can help guide conservators through the process of establishing the conservatorship appointment with the court, and with the administration over time in complying with court requirements and reporting. An attorney can also create legal boundaries for any conservatorship agreement, this way any questions of conflict of interests can be put to rest. 

Emergency Conservatorships

The legal procedure of emergency conservatorship involves the temporary appointment of a conservator, who is tasked with making financial decisions for a protected person who is unable to do so. Even if there is already a petition to establish a financial conservatorship, someone can petition the Probate and Family Law Court to establish a temporary conservatorship. Potential conservators need to state in the petition to the courts why they believe the protected person is in need of a conservatorship.

Joint Conservatorships

A Joint Conservatorship is a financial conservatorship. However, in a Joint Conservatorship, two conservators are appointed. Joint conservators need to petition the court, as in a more common financial conservatorship. Questions related to the necessity of the conservatorship, the harm prevention, and the actions that the conservators will take, must still be answered. In Massachusetts there’s also the possibility of establishing a Sole Conservatorship.

Conservators Should Rely On Legal Help

Conservators have a number of duties and the overall responsibility of the job is not a ‘walk in the park.’ A conservator serves many roles and functions. They are a fiduciary for the protected person. This makes them responsible for managing the protected person’s property within the limits authorized by the court decree. They also need to, if possible, promote the protected person in regaining control and management over their assets. Conservators can be limited in many ways. They cannot use the protected person’s assets for their own benefit nor can they completely cut off the protected person from their own money. Considering the level of responsibility and sensitivity of this role we always suggest that conservators utilize the expertise of a conservatorship attorney to fully understand the legal process.

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