As we grow older, the roles reverse. It starts off as something simple, your parent(s) start forgetting where they put their phone, to forgetting they had an appointment. Then it gradually grows into something bigger like not knowing how to get home, bills not getting paid, or not remembering to take their medication. Seeking conservatorship over a parent can happen because of multiple reasons. The most typical reason an adult child might seek conservatorship over their parent is because their parent has some sort of cognitive impairment that is making it difficult for them to make financial or medical decisions. Filing a petition for conservatorship can seem like an overwhelming process. But, with some counsel it can seem not so daunting and straightforward.
What is Conservatorship?
Conservatorship is a legal process used to allow a person to make financial decisions for someone who is unable to make those decisions for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. In a conservatorship case, your parent would be considered “a conservatee” or “protected individual.” In cases where the adult child is seeking conservatorship of their elder parent is typically because the elder parent has early/onset dementia/Alzheimer’s or because their parent suffered a stroke, heart attack, or other unexpected medical event, which leaves them unable to make sound financial decisions. A conservator on behalf of the protected individual is able to pay bills, manage real estate, sell real estate, file bankruptcy, manage financial holdings, gift, file income taxes, and etc. Basically, an appointed Conservator may make decisions regarding anything that deals with money or real estate.
Who can file for Conservatorship?
Any interested party can file for Conservatorship. An interested party could be the adult child of the adult, the spouse, a sibling, a friend, or caregiver. The person filing for Conservatorship over another individual must serve all other interested parties in the matter. For example, if an adult child is filing for conservatorship over their parent, they must serve their siblings with the petition to the court.
Where do I file a petition for Conservatorship?
In Michigan, you file in the county where the protected individual permanently resides or is located if other than home. This could be in the county were their assisted living or nursing home is located if applicable. It is best to talk with an elder law attorney who practices probate law to see which county you should file in. The attorney may know, which court is seeing cases more quickly if time is of the essence.
How do I file for Conservatorship?
Once you know where or what court to file the conservatorship petition, you must get the petition and the supplement forms to the petition. You can accomplish this by consulting with an attorney in your area. The petition and supplement forms must be filled out completely and properly. You must state why the conservatorship is necessary and you may attach additional pages if needed. I would recommend getting a letter or note from your parent’s doctor stating that conservatorship is necessary and the reasons why. You will also have to pay a filing fee of $175.00 for the petition plus $12.00 for certified Letters of Conservatorship. If you are filing Conservatorships for two people, such as both parents, it will cost $350.00 plus $24.00 for the certified copies. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.
I filed the petition, now what?
Once you file a petition for conservatorship, the court will set up a hearing date. If you need to be immediately appointed as conservator, they will set up a temporary or emergency hearing AND a full hearing for permanent conservatorship. If you need an emergency hearing so you can immediately make financial decisions for your parents, this typically happens within 2-3 weeks depending on the courts. A full hearing to be the permanent/full conservatorship will then happen roughly a month after that. In either situation, whether it is a full hearing or temporary/emergency hearing, a guardian at litem (GAL) will be appointed to the case. This is typically a third-party attorney whose job is speak with you regarding the necessity of the conservatorship. The GAL will also interview with you parent and see if they are cognitively impaired and in need of conservator or if they object to the conservatorship. The GAL will also speak with any interested party.
How do I avoid conservatorship?
In order to avoid having to file for conservatorship, you must make sure your parents have valid Durable Power of Attorneys and Patient Advocates (medical power of attorney). This is so crucial. Preparation and preplanning is key. Once your parent is deemed incapacitated, without any kind of planning or powers of attorneys in place, the ordeal becomes that much more difficult. Attorneys can help you and your parents with your estate planning needs, giving you peace of mind that if something happens if you have the tools and documents you need to protect you and loved ones from having to go through the probate courts in order to file for conservatorship. At the Law Office of Sean Patrick Cox, PLLC, our attorneys proudly serve West Michigan families in drafting their estate plans to avoid these types of situations. Each of these lawyers is one of the most well-reputed Top Grand Rapids Estate Planning Attorney. Most importantly if families find themselves in this situation, we can help guide them through the process and get them to the other side, worry free.
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