A conservatorship is a difficult and often humiliating process for any client to have to go through. It’s important for clients to understand that, at the end of their life, it can happen to anyone.
When evidence exists indicating a person is no longer capable of managing his or her own affairs due to illness, age, or decreased capacity, a court can appoint a conservator to step in — and that’s an outcome no one wants to see.
It’s also a process that many people may not want to contemplate, and a difficult conversation to have. But there are ways to deal with a potential conservatorship that may mitigate the difficulties of one, or can even help clients avoid them altogether.
Here are some tactics that advisors should keep in mind:
Nominate a Potential Conservator
One way to make sure a conservatorship is as painless as possible is to have the client nominate his or her own conservator. If there’s a trusted and capable member of the family who wouldn’t mind taking on the responsibilities, that person would be a good choice, or a member of the client’s advisory team who is willing to volunteer.
A court doesn’t necessarily have to abide by a person’s choice of conservator, but will generally do so. Just make sure the nominee is up to the job. And put that person’s name into an easily accessible document.
Name a Durable Power of Attorney
A lesser step is to grant a durable power of attorney to a family member. This cedes the right to control the client’s personal and financial affairs in case of incapacity, without requiring court proceedings that can lead to a conservatorship.
There’s an important distinction to be made here: A durable power of attorney gives a person authority to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf, while a general power of attorney grants those same powers but doesn’t extend past incapacitation. A general power of attorney wouldn’t be of much use in warding off a potential conservatorship.