Unlike a guardian, a conservator has no power or responsibility over the individual. Only the money and property falls within the conservator’s jurisdiction. A conservator has power to invest funds of the estate and to distribute sums reasonably necessary for the support, care, education or benefit of the protected person and any legal dependents of the protected person. Either an individual,or a corporation with general power to serve as a trustee may be appointed conservator for a protected person. Typically, state laws provide a preferred order of priority for those who may be considered by the court for appointment. A conservator has the powers and responsibilities of a fiduciary and is held to the standard of care applicable to a trustee. The conservator files an inventory of the estate of the protected person with the court and accountings of the administration of the estate.
Conservatorship is established by petitioning the court. The petition can be filed by the person to be protected, or by any person interested in the estate, affairs, or welfare of the protected person. This appointee could be a parent or guardian, or by any individual or entity adversely affected by improper management of the property and affairs of the protected person. In most states, the person to be protected must be represented by an attorney. The court also typically requires an independent physician’s report. The court may appoint a conservator if it finds that an individual is unable to manage property and financial affairs effectively for reasons including, but not limited to, mental illness, mental deficiency, mental disorder, physical illness or disability, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, confinement, detention by a foreign power, or disappearance.
A conservatorship terminates upon the death of the protected person or upon a court determination that the disability of the protected person has ceased. The protected person, the personal representative of the protected person, the conservator, or any other interested person or entity may petition the court to terminate the conservatorship. Upon termination, title of the assets passes to the former protected person, or if deceased, as provided by the protected person’s will.