The Ins and Outs of Guardianship and Conservatorship
When your elderly parent or family member is no longer able to take care of their basic financial and personal needs, you may consider petitioning the court for a guardianship or conservatorship. Conservatorships and guardianships are often used for people with severe cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease patients. If you are not sure if your loved one needs a conservator or guardian, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my loved one able to make decisions effectively and soundly?
- Is my loved one able to protect his/her physical health?
- Is my loved one able to care for themselves?
- Is my loved one able to make sound financial decisions?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, a conservatorship or guardianship may be beneficial for your loved one.
What is a conservatorship?
When an adult cannot manage their financial affairs, due to illness or other circumstances, the courts may appoint a conservator to manage their financial affairs. The person who cannot manage their affairs is considered a “protected person”. The person appointed to manage the affairs of the protected person is called the conservator. Sometimes the conservator is also the guardian, meaning they are responsible for more than just financial decisions.
What is a guardianship?
When a person cannot make decisions about their healthcare, safety or living arrangements, the courts may appoint a guardian to manage the personal and medical affairs of the incapacitated adult, also referred to as the “ward”.
The court-appointed guardian is responsible for any matters that impact the ward’s affairs, personal care, and medical care. Unlike a conservator, a guardian has limited authority to manage the finances of the ward.
Who is considered an incapacitated person?
Colorado defines an incapacitated person as an “individual, other than a minor, who is unable to effectively receive or evaluate information or both or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care”.
What is a protected person?
Under Colorado law, a protected person is defined as any individual who is unable to manage property or business affairs because that person is unable to effectively receive or evaluate information, or is unable to make or communicate decisions.
Guardianships and Conservatorships for Elderly Parents
Caring for an elderly parent can become even more complicated with your parent becomes incapacitated and needs special care. A guardianship, or conservatorship, may be necessary when your loved one is no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
Guardianships and Conservatorships to Benefit Adults with Special Needs
When a special needs adult is over 18 and does not have the cognitive ability to direct his or her financial or medical affairs, a guardianship or conservatorship may be appropriate.
Parents play an integral part in the daily wellbeing of children with special needs. Once a child turns 18, it may become more difficult for the parent to make medical and financial decisions for an adult child. While a parent understands the need to care for the wellbeing of a child with special needs into adulthood, the law sees all children as responsible for their daily and financial needs after they turn 18.
To continue involvement after a child turns 18, parents may consider a guardian or conservator.