What are the Responsibilities of a Conservator?

The duties of the conservator will vary depending upon the court’s order appointing a conservator, and whether the appointment is for “conservator of the estate” or “conservator of the person,” or both, but there are some basic obligations that go with acceptance of the duties of conservator:

Conservator of the Person’s Responsibilities

1. Protection of the Ward

Often the conservator’s most important responsibility is to see that the ward is living in a safe environment. This may mean engaging a geriatric care manager or other knowledgeable person to make the home a safe place for the ward to live. It may mean hiring care-givers to watch the ward to see that he doesn't harm himself, whether by malnourishment or accident. It may mean taking the ward out of the home and placing him in another safe place, such as an assisted living facility or nursing home.

2. Health Care

Unless the conservatorship order reserves medical authority to the ward who has mental capacity or there is already another health care agent for the ward (see below), the conservator is responsible for seeing that all the health care needs of the ward are met, including both medical and psychiatric. If the ward has previously executed a living will or otherwise made known his wishes in the event of a terminal illness, the conservator is bound to follow those wishes. The conservator would ordinarily request instructions from the court before removing life support, for example, unless there was a living will to follow.

If the ward had made an appointment of a health care agent through a durable power of attorney for health care or other document, that agency is not cancelled by the conservatorship, and the previous health care agent is still in charge of medical matters.

3. Act in Ward’s Best Interest

This is a high fiduciary responsibility, but best interest of the ward may actually include the decision to withdraw medical treatment in a terminal illness, if the ward while having mental capacity had left instructions to do so in a living will, for example.

Conservator of the Estate’s Responsibilities

In general, the conservator of the estate has a fiduciary duty to act in the ward’s best interests, a high standard of care and responsibility. Conflicts of interest or taking actions that help another person at the expense of the ward are generally prohibited. The conservator of the estate’s job is to handle all the financial affairs of the ward and pay all the ward’s bills carefully and properly. The conservator of the estate may be responsible for substantial assets, in some cases, and if so, is obligated to invest them safely and prudently, hiring financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys, if appropriate, to carry out those duties. The expenses of those advisors must be included in the budget and management plan approved by the court.

Statutory Responsibilities:

1. Inventory of Assets

The conservator of the estate is required to take control of the assets of the ward and to file with the court an inventory of those assets. All bank and investment accounts will be transferred into the conservator’s name for the benefit of the ward.

2. Management Plan

The conservator of the estate is required to develop a budget and a property management plan for use of the assets of the ward for the coming year. Only prudent investments and expenditures outlined in the plan and subsequently approved by the judge will be permitted. The conservator will be personally liable for any unauthorized expenditures of the ward’s assets.

3. Annual Accounting

The conservator of the estate must deliver to the probate court clerk a highly detailed accounting of the income and expenditures for the ward at the end of each year. Copies of all checks, bank statements and the supporting information about income and expenses must be delivered to the clerk for careful review. Any revisions to the management plan are thereafter submitted to the judge for approval.

4. Closing the Estate

Upon the death of the ward, the conservator is responsible for seeing to the burial of the ward, in conjunction with appropriate family members, and thereafter must prepare a final accounting for the court before he may be discharged from his responsibilities.