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What is a conservatorship?

Thinking about one's demise is difficult, and contemplating what would happen if one becomes incapacitated is even more troubling. However, having a plan in place for what should take place in case one is unable to make important financial and medical decisions for oneself is an important step Houston residents should take, as it can avoid a situation where the court has to appoint a conservator. A conservator is only appointed if there are no durable powers of attorney for finances and medical decisions.

The court appoints an individual to manage the incapacitated person's affairs, both personal and financial. This could include managing living arrangements, overseeing finances and creating and monitoring the ward's physical care. The responsibilities could be divided between two persons, with one overseeing medical decisions and one financial, or they could be given to the same person.

While guardianships and conservatorships are terms that are used interchangeably, they are in two different legal concepts in reality. Where guardianships refer to the appointment of a person to oversee the physical and medical care of someone with limited capacity, conservatorships refer to the appointment of someone to manage the financial affairs of someone who is a minor, is incapacitated or an older person with limited capacity.

There are a number of situations in which a court appoints a conservator, such as when someone is suffering from Alzheimer's or have a serious injury or illness, like a coma. Though conservators are supervised by the court, there are often cases of mismanagement and financial abuse, which is why family members often object to the appointment of a conservator. Records also made public, which many feel is an intrusion of their privacy. One way to avoid a conservatorship and probate litigation is by having a comprehensive estate plan in place that outlines steps to be taken in a multitude of scenarios. By understanding this process, one can help protect him or herself as well as their future and loved ones.

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