Conservatorship in the State of New York Explained

young man with an elderly, sick manAmericans are healthier and living longer than ever before. The time may come, however, when you or your family will need to make financial and/or health care decisions for a relative. It is helpful to have documents available that give you the legal authority to make these decisions in advance, though this may not always be the case.

If your relative is no longer capable of making decisions or executing a power of attorney, you may need to go to court to request a conservatorship – which will allow you to make legal and health care decisions on your relative’s behalf – while under the supervision of a local court.

What is Conservatorship?

When a family member becomes incapacitated and has not signed powers of attorney for personal finances and health care, you may need to ask a court to give you the authority to manage your loved one’s finances and personal affairs.

Who Does Conservatorship Assist?

Generally, conservatorships are established for people who are in comas, suffering from severe dementia, or have other serious illnesses or injuries that render them incapacitated.

The court usually grants conservatorship to a spouse or other close member of the family, with respect to any evidence of what the incapacitated person would have wanted, or other information regarding the person’s best interest. The person who is appointed by the court is called a conservator, or guardian, and will have a legal duty to act in the incapacitated loved one’s best interests.

How is the Court Involved?

In order to prevent conservators from mismanaging property or otherwise taking advantage of the people they are supposed to be helping, they will be supervised by the court. This means that the conservator may be required to provide periodic reports, which detail their actions. Many courts also require the conservator to seek permission before making major decisions, such as selling real estate or, if the conservator is in charge of health care decisions, terminating life support.

What is Expected of Conservators?

Conservators aren’t required to use their own money to support an incapacitated person. Instead, it’s their job to manage the incapacitated person’s own assets and make personal decisions as needed. A conservator does, however, have the responsibility to seek all financial benefits that might be available. These benefits may include Social Security, Veterans Administration benefits, pension and retirement benefits, disability benefits, health insurance coverage, public assistance, and Supplemental Security Income.

A conservator must act until the court issues an order ending the conservatorship, which ordinarily does not happen until:

  • The incapacitated person dies,
  • The incapacitated person no longer needs this level of assistance, or
  • The conservator resigns or can no longer handle the responsibilities.

Andrew M. Lamkin – Elder Care Attorney

While conservatorship may be a viable option for your family, court proceedings to request conservatorship are expensive, time-consuming, and public – which may not be what your family wants when dealing with a crisis involving a family member. If you need to make decisions for a loved one who recently became incapacitated, you may need the assistance of an attorney experienced in these matters. The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. can help make this difficult situation easier for you and your family. Call 516-605-0625 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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