This is the next post in a series of articles discussing conservatorships in Hartford and other areas of Connecticut. Our last article reviewed the circumstances under which a Connecticut Probate Court will appoint a conservator. If the Court determines, based on the Court’s review of medical evidence, that the individual cannot care for his or herself, including managing their financial affairs, then the court will appoint a conservator only if doing so is the least restrictive means to assist the conserved person. Such a request may be made on an expedited basis if the individual’s health, financial, or legal affairs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm without a conservator’s assistance. In all cases, the Probate Court will carefully review the evidence and grant the least restricted powers as possible to protect the conserved person’s rights. For the same reason, those acting as conservators have specific duties and must maintain certain ethical responsibilities. We will review those obligations further in this article. If you need assistance, contact our office to speak with a probate attorney.
Anyone serving in the role of conservator must follow strict ethical guidelines, state-mandated standards of practice, and all instructions and orders issued by the Probate Court. One primary obligation, for example, is to limit one’s actions to those expressly authorized by the Probate Court. Anything outside of the scope of that authority is reserved by the conserved person. For instance, if the Judge authorizes a person to manage the monthly utility bills and periodic tax bills of her elderly grandmother, the person does not have the power to manage investments or make charitable contributions from her grandmother’s accounts. Furthermore, conservators must, whenever possible in light of the condition of the conserved person, encourage them to take an active role in all decision-making. For example, depending upon an individual’s abilities, a conservator should solicit their opinions regarding selecting clothing each day, meals or even making living arrangements. In some cases, a conservator may be required to post a bond, insuring against the misuse of assets. In addition, the Probate Court maintains ongoing oversight of those acting as conservators during their tenure. Conservators must comply with Court-ordered periodic reporting requirements, record-keeping, be subject to audits, or be required to obtain advance permission for certain actions.
These responsibilities are designed to protect conserved persons from abuse of power by their conservator. Failure to comply may result in the termination of one’s conservatorship and, in extreme cases, civil or criminal charges. Consider the following example. A son petitions the Probate Court for an involuntary conservatorship for his father requesting the ability to manage both medical and financial affairs on his behalf. The Court grants the request and grants the son broad authority because his father is extremely ill with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The son must, on the anniversary of his appointment, present a financial report to the Probate Court, setting forth information about his father’s accounts and transactions during that period. During the review, the Judge realizes that the son emptied all of his father’s accounts and moved the money into his own, now making it impossible to determine whose funds are whose. Under these circumstances, the Judge would likely remove the son as conservator. Further, there may be additional, potentially severe consequences of these actions as they clearly violate the ethical obligations of a conservator and may result in additional legal proceedings.
Agreeing to serve as someone’s conservator can be a complicated undertaking involving ongoing legal and ethical responsibilities. It is important to understand what your obligations are and how to comply with the Court’s requirements. If you need assistance with a conservatorship issue, contact our office today to speak to a Hartford lawyer. We also service the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.