Probate Court - Information for New Conservator of Adult
A conservator owes a fiduciary duty to the individual, a duty of the highest trust. The conservator muse use care in handling property and be prudent in making investments. You must account to the court for all money and property received, all money spent o behalf of the individual.
A conservator has title to the property, but does not own it. Rather, a conservator manages it for the benefit of the individual.
A person who no longer has control of his or her money may feel others are stealing or otherwise misusingit. You should try to allay those fears. If an individual can understand a decision is to be made, a conservator should confer with him or her before acting.
A conservator should be guided by the known wishes, likes and preferences of an individual, whether expressed before the conservatorship was established or currently. Whenever possible, the individual should be presented with choices. These are important aspects of independence and dignity.
If you are unsure as to what action to take on a particular issue, you have the right to petition the court for instructions, requesting the court determine his or her powers or the right course of action. There is a $20 filing fee.
Respect any limitations on your powers set forth in law or in your Letters of Conservatorship.
Encourage independence and self-reliance of the individual, to the extent possible. This may mean allowing the individual direct access to some funds to spend as he or she likes.
Keep financial affairs of the individual private, except when necessary to disclose them as part of financial transactions or in fulfilling duties to report to the court or to interested parties.
Fulfill reporting requirements to the court - an inventory and annual accounts - in a timely and accurate manner.
To effectively serve as conservator, there is a burden of paperwork. You should begin immediately upon your appointment.
Begin to make a list of the property owned by the individual which will be under your control. The list should be detailed, with a description of each item sufficient to easily identify it.
The list can protect you down the road, and it will also help in putting together the inventory.
Set up a log to record the date, amount and source of all income received by the individual, including employment, pension, interest, dividends, tax rebates and health insurance reimbursement, and any sale of an asset.
Set up a log to record the date, amount and reason for all expenditures you make using the individual's money. You can choose to set this up as a daily log, or have separate pages for different categories of expense, such as: food, clothing, shelter, including utility bills; health and dental care, insurance; including health, homeowners, automobile.
Maintain a checkbook, and keep it balanced.
In a folder or file box, collect all bills, receipts, bank statements, and cancelled checks relating to expenditures. Keep these separate from your own personal records.
The better these records, the easier it will be for you to complete your annual account and tax returns. These records can also protect you against charges of wrongdoing.
The law requires you exhibit records upon the request of an interested person.
You should have a file with all copies of all court papers relating to the conservatorship, including Petition, Letters of Conservator, Inventory, and Annual Accountings.
You should also have a file with other important legal papers, such as automobile title, life and health insurance policies, deeds, property appreasals, and warranties on consumer goods. You might consider renting a safe deposit box for these items.
You might have an additional file for any correspondence received or sent regarding the conservatorship, for example, notices from Social Security Administration, medical insurance claims.
If you plan to charge for your services, it may be helpful to keep a record of your time. You should show what task or tasks you performed during each time period.
As conservator you must set up and account as soon as possible after your Letters of Conservator. You may go to the bank the individual has used in the past, your own bank, or another. In choosing a bank, consider convenience, interest rates, service charges, and reuptation of service.
The bank will want to see, and perhaps keep a certified copy, of your Letters of Conservatorship.
You will need a checking account. Use the individual's social security number. Do not create a joint account. The account name should read:
Individual's Name by: Conservator's Name
You must apply at the local Social Security Office to become representative payee.
If the individual receives either Social Security or SSI checks at home, apply ath the nearest Social Security office to become representative payee. Bring a copy of the Petition for Conservatorship and your Letters of Conservatorship.
Your obligation as representative payee is to use the funds for the present needs of the individual. If there is extra money, then save the remainder for future needs.
For the funds you receive as representative payee, you will have to file an annual report with the Social Security Administration.
If the protected person receives Veterans Benefits, you can become custodian of pension or disability funds. A VA field representative visits to determine whether you are appropriate to be custodian. The representative can conduct periodic reviews of your performance, eliciting information about how money was spent, your visits, and any medical treatment the individual received.
Contact any businesses that have transactions with the individual on a regular basis. For instance, write to utility companies, credit card companies, brokers and any landlord. Have future bills come to your address.
If the individual receives a pension or disability payments from an employer or insurance company, contact the business so that future checks are directed to you as conservator.
Within one week after your appointments as conservator you will receive a Notice to Conservator of Reporting Duties from the Court.
Within 56 days from the date the court issues your Letters of Conservator, you must file an inventory. An inventory is a list of the real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, automobiles, antiques and other valuable personal property the individual owns, together with the approximate fair market value of each item. You must include any jointly owned property.
After filing the inventory with the court, you must send copies to interested parties and personally serve the protected person. The proof of service must be filed with the court.
The Conservator must file and account annually. The court will provide you with a blank account of fiduciary form. The fee to file the annual account is $20.
You may be held personally liable if any of the following occur:
You deliberately misuse funds of the inidividual.
You act outside your authority.
You commingle your income and assets with those of the individual.
You are negligent in investing money, protecting assets or paying debts.
You self-deal without prior court approval.
To avoid being held personally liable;
Know the limits of your authority.
Document your activities.
Maintain the idividual's assets separately from your own.
Use your common sense.
Keep interested parties informed.
Ask the court if you have questions.
You must file any federal, state or city income tax returns that are due. You may hire an accountant to assist in the preparation of tax returns.
Actions to avoid:
Do not commingle conservatorship assets with your own. Do not treat the minor's property as your own in any way.
Do not put any of the individual's money in your own bank account. You must establish a restricted account separate from your own. Do no set up a joint bank account.
Avoid self-dealing unless you first get court permission. Do not sell anything to the individual or purchase anything from him or her. Do not take a loan from conservatorship funds. Do not use conservatorship funds to pay for your own personal bills and needs.
Except for you receiving court approved fees for your services, neither you nor any of your family should financially benefit from the conservatorship.